a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

Wilkins Ice Bridge collapse

Posted by Thomas Nephew on April 8th, 2009

global warming
Image by MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC.

A Connecticut-sized ice shelf on the coast of Antarctica is poised to break away and float out to sea. Paul Harris of

Change at Wilkins has come fast, often taking scientists by surprise with the speed of the break-up. In February last year a 164- square-mile chunk broke off. Then in May another slab of ice, this time measuring 62 square miles, fell away. The ice shelf has lost a total of 694 square miles over the past 12 months, representing some 14 per cent of its size. That shrank the vital ice bridge to just 984 yards at its narrowest location. Now that bridge too is coming under huge strains.

NASA Earth Observatory adds:

The collapse of the ice shelf will not contribute to sea level rise, since the ice had already been floating on the water. When other ice shelves such as the Larsen, have collapsed, they allowed glaciers to pump more ice into the ocean at a faster rate, which did contribute to sea level rise. The Wilkins Ice Shelf, however, does not buttress any major glacier, says Scambos. The Wilkins Ice Shelf is the tenth major ice shelf to collapse in recent times, another sign that warming temperatures are impacting Earth’s fragile cryosphere.

(Emphasis added.)

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