Breaking news: Wilkins Ice Shelf breaks off from Antarctica

by Mike Gaworecki

April 5, 2009

According to reports, the ice bridge connecting the Wilkins Ice Shelf to Antarctica has shattered.

This is a glaring example of global warming having drastic impacts on our planet. The Wilkins Ice Shelf only began to break up, or “retreat,” in the late 1990s. Scientists say it has been “very stable” since the 1930s, but believe it to have been stable for far longer than that. Per the British Antarctic Survey: “It is probable that the current reduction in ice-shelves in the region has no precedent in the last 10,000 years, and certain that this minimum has not been reached at any time in the last millennium.”

The collapse of the ice bridge has been expected for some weeks. Cracks in the ice bridge were first spotted by researchers last week using satellite imagery. The loss of the ice bridge puts the entire Wilkins Ice Shelf at greater risk of total collapse.

This dramatic event underscores the real and pressing need for global action to combat global warming. Greenpeace USA deputy campaign director Carroll Muffett puts it this way: “The breakup of this ice shelf is in vivid contrast to the glacial pace of the international climate negotiations, where governments are trying to avoid acting responsibly – and bickering about who’s at fault." You can read the rest of the Greenpeace’s reaction here.

More info on the breakup and its import via the BBC:

An ice bridge linking a shelf of ice the size of Jamaica to two islands in Antarctica has snapped.

Scientists say the collapse could mean the Wilkins Ice Shelf is on the brink of breaking away, and provides further evidence for rapid change in the region.

Sited on the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula, the Wilkins shelf has been retreating since the 1990s.

Researchers regarded the ice bridge as an important barrier, holding the remnant shelf structure in place.

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