Wednesday, June 18, 2008

There she goes

The Wilkins ice shelf, which suffered a major collapse back in March, is now looking like history, with another large chunk breaking off (includes animated satellite photos). This is the first time scientists have recorded an ice-shelf breaking up in the depths of winter. As for the long-term prognosis, it's not good:

"The remaining plate has an arched fracture at its narrowest position, making it very likely that the connection will break completely in the coming days," Braun and Humbert said.
As for the cause, they're pretty clear:
The Antarctic Peninsula has experienced extraordinary warming in the past 50 years of 2.5°C, Braun and Humbert explained. In the past 20 years, seven ice shelves along the peninsula have retreated or disintegrated, including the most spectacular break-up of the Larsen B Ice Shelf in 2002...
Wilkins is a small ice-shelf, but its a scary reminder of what could happen to some of the larger ones if the climate continues to warm.

(Hat-tip: Frogblog)