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Ice shelf suffering serious melting

by Alan Harten
March 27, 2008

New satellite images are showing that a huge chunk of Antarctica’s Wilkins Ice Shelf has begun to fall away in the quickly warming waters. This is according to scientist Ted Scambos, lead scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

The area affected is huge at 160 sq miles of the Wilkins Ice Shelf which is a very wide sheet of floating ice making up part of the southwest Antarctic Peninsula.which is located 100 miles from the tip of South America.

Mr Scambos stated that, “Block after block of ice is just tumbling and crumbling into the ocean,” and that “The shelf is not just cracking off and a piece goes drifting away, but totally shattering. These kinds of events, we don’t see them very often. But we want to understand them better because these are the things that lead to a complete loss of the ice shelf,”.

A large section of the shelf now only sits on athin sheet of Ocean ice.known as an “ice buttress” if this were to collapse then around 50% the total ice shelf in the area could be permanently lost.

British Antarctic Survey scientist David Vaughan said: “This shelf is hanging by a thread.” and “One corner of it that’s exposed to the ocean is shattering in a pattern that we’ve seen in a few places over the past 10 or 15 years. In every case, we’ve eventually concluded that it’s a result of climate warming.”

The latest images from 3 weeks ago show a large iceberg measuring twenty five miles by one and a half miles has fallen away from the shelf’s south west leading edgewhich is causing major disintegration of the interior of the shelf interior.

“The warming that’s going on in the peninsula is pretty clearly tied to greenhouse gas increases and the change that they have in the atmospheric circulation around the Antarctic,” Scambos stated.

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