Wilkins Ice Shelf Hangs By A Thread

by | Mar 25, 2008

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An area of Antarctica’s Wilkins Ice Shelf that measures about 160 square miles has started to collapse, Reuters reports.

“These kinds of events, we don’t see them very often,” said Ted Scambos, lead scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center. “But we want to understand them better because these are the things that lead to a complete loss of the ice shelf.”

With Antarctica’s summer melt season drawing to a close, scientists do not expect the Wilkins to further disintegrate in the next several months. “This unusual show is over for this season,” Scambos said. “But come January, we’ll be watching to see if the Wilkins continues to fall apart.”

A large part of the ice shelf is now supported by only a thin strip of ice. British Antarctic Survey scientist David Vaughan said: “This shelf is hanging by a thread.”

Here’s some info from Dot Earth:

The frozen continent, being a continent, is exhibiting a broad array of climate conditions, with some parts cooling and adding ice through accumulated snowfall, and others, like the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, potentially poised to lose large amounts of ice to the sea in coming decades. In the meantime, the thin floating veneer of sea ice that forms each austral winter and fades in summer has been larger than usual lately, in contrast to the sharp summer sea-ice retreats in the Arctic.

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