Antarctic Ice Collapse
Probably just as well.
Big chunk of Antarctic ice shelf falling apart
WASHINGTON (AFP) — Antarctica's massive Wilkins Ice Shelf has begun disintegrating under the effects of global warming, satellite images by the University of Colorado's National Snow and Ice Data Center showed.
The collapse of a substantial section of the shelf was triggered February 28 when an iceberg measuring 41 by 2.4 kilometers (25.5 by 1.5 miles) broke off its southwestern front. That movement led to disintegration of the shelf's interior, of which 414 square kilom eters (160 square miles) have already disappeared, scientists say.
The Wilkins Ice Shelf is a broad plate of permanent floating ice 1,609 kilometers (1,000 miles) south of South America, on the southwest Antarctic Peninsula. Now, as a result of recent losses, a large part of the 12,950-square-kilometer (5,000-square-mile) shelf is supported by a narrow 5.6-kilometer (3.5-mile) strip of ice between two islands, scientists said.
"If there is a little bit more retreat, this last 'ice buttress' could collapse and we'd likely lose about half the total ice shelf area in the next few years," NSIDC lead scientist Ted Scambos said in a statement.
"Wilkins is the largest ice shelf on West Antarctica yet to be threatened. This shelf is hanging by a thread," echoed David Vaughan of the British Antarctic Survey, which contributed data on the break-up.
Jim Elliott, who was onboard a British Antarctic Survey Twin Otter aircraft sent to video the extent of the damage, said the scene looked like a bomb site.
"I've never seen anything like this before -- it was awesome," he said in a BAS statement. "We flew along the main crack and observed the sheer scale of movement from the breakage. "Big hefty chunks of ice, the size of small houses, look as though they've been thrown around like rubble -- it's like an explosion."
Antarctica has suffered unprecedented warming in the last 50 years -- with several ice shelves retreating and six of them collapsing since the 1970s.
"Climate warming in the Antarctic Peninsula has pushed the limit of viability for ice shelves further south, setting some of them that used to be stable on a course of retreat and eventual loss," Vaughan said.
Vaughan said the Wilkins breakout would not affect sea levels because it was already floating when it broke off.
"But it is another indication of the impact that climate change is having on the region."
Over the past half century, the western Antarctic Peninsula has experienced the steepest temperature increase on Earth, 0.5 degrees Celsius (0.9 Farenheit) per decade.
"We believe the Wilkins has been in place for at least a few hundred years, but warm air and exposure to ocean waves are causing a breakup," said Scambos, who first spotted the disintegration in March. (clip)
Ultimately, ice shelf breakup in the Antarctic -- more than 13,000 square kilometers (5,000 square miles) have been lost over the past 50 years -- could significantly increase ocean levels around the world. (more)
I had lunch with some folks today who were in the wind business. Somehow I managed to get started on the solid state photonic energy grid that we must develop and adopt.
"How long do you think it will take for this kind of vision to be realized?" one of them asked.
"If we want to have a chance of surviving,
We better hope by Tuesday", I said.
I think she thought I was exaggerating.
Labels: climate change