Massive Wilkins ice shelf in Antarctic continues to break upApril 28th, 2009 by cdunagan
Icebergs have begun to “calve” from the northern section of the
Wilkins ice shelf in the Antarctic, indicating that the massive
chunk of ice has become unstable, the European Space Agency is
reporting today. (Go to ESA
Three weeks ago, a connecting ice bridge collapsed between the Antarctic mainland and Charcot Island. As a result of that collapse, rifts have widened and new cracks have formed.
“The retreat of Wilkins Ice Shelf is the latest and the largest of its kind,” David Vaughan of the British Antarctic Survey said in the new release. “Eight separate ice shelves along the Antarctic Peninsula have shown signs of retreat over the last few decades. There is little doubt that these changes are the result of atmospheric warming on the Antarctic Peninsula, which has been the most rapid in the Southern Hemisphere.”
Dr Angelika Humbert of the Institute of Geophysics at Münster University said the future of the ice remains uncertain.
“We are not sure if a new stable ice front will now form between Latady Island, Petrie Ice Rises and Dorsey Island,” she said. “If the connection to Latady Island is lost, the projected loss of 3,370 square kilometers of ice might be greater — though we have no indication that this will happen in the near future.”
Meanwhile, in another Reuters story, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is quoted as saying tourism must be limited to protect the fragile Antarctic region.
“We have submitted a resolution that would place limits on landings from ships carrying large number of tourists,” she said at a joint session of the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting and the Arctic Council. “We have also proposed new requirements for lifeboats on tour ships to make sure they can keep passengers alive until rescue comes.”
She continued, “With the collapse of an ice bridge that holds in place the Wilkins ice shelf, we are reminded that global warming has already had enormous effects on our planet, and we have no time to lose in tackling this crisis.”