As though commenting on world leader’s lack of progress in combating climate change at the G20 conference last week, an ice bridge connecting the Wilkins Ice Shelf to the Antarctic continent broke off over the weekend. Long expected by scientists, the break is perhaps the beginning of the Wilkins Ice Shelf completely coming loose from Antarctica.
Splitting at its thinnest point of 500 meters the 25-mile-long ice bridge connected the Wilkins Ice Shelf to Charcot and Latardy islands. The Wilkins Ice Shelf has become famous for being the largest of ten Antarctic ice shelves to have collapsed or shrunk recently, most likely due to rising temperatures in the Antarctic. In the past 50 years, Antarctic temperature have risen approximately 3 degrees Celsius (5 degrees Fahrenheit), which is about three times the global surface temperature increase.
Scientists worry that the loss of the ice bridge may allow water currents to melt the Wilkins Ice Shelf far faster, eventually leaving the ice shelf a disintegrating island.
(01/22/2009) Despite a cooling trend in the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, Antarctica has experienced net warming over the past 50 years, report researchers writing in the January 22 edition of Nature. Analyzing data from satellites and weather stations authors led by Eric Steig of the University of Washington (UW) found that “warming in West Antarctica exceeded one-tenth of a degree Celsius per decade for the last 50 years and more than offset the cooling in East Antarctica”, according to a statement from UW.
(04/24/2008) A full recovery of the stratospheric ozone hole could strongly modify climate change in the Southern Hemisphere and possibly amplify warming of the Antarctic continent, a new study finds.
(03/25/2008) Satellites have captured the collapse of a massive ice shelf in Antarctica. At 160 square miles the area of collapsed ice was seven times the size of Manhattan. Scientists say the collapse is the beginning of a “runaway” disintegration of the 13,680 square kilometer (5,282 square mile) Wilkins Ice Shelf on the southwest Antarctic Peninsula. The region has experienced the largest temperature increase on the planet, rising by 0.5 degree Celsius (0.9 degree Fahrenheit) per decade over the past 50 years.
(07/19/2007) Melting glaciers and ice caps will contribute more to global sea level rise this century than the melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, reports a study published in the current issue of Science.
(06/05/2007) Antarctic glaciers are moving faster due to global warming, reports the British Antarctic Survey.
(05/16/2007) NASA has found clear evidence of a California-sized area of snow melting in west Antarctica in January 2005 in response to warm temperatures.