Wilkins Ice Shelf collapses in Antarctica

Wilkins Ice Shelf breakup - from air

Part of the Wilkins Ice Shelf in Antarctica has broken off and another part is hanging on by a narrow strip of ice. The ice has been in place for at least a few hundred years. In other places where this has happened it has been deadly for penguins because they can no longer reach the water or they can no longer climb back onto the ice.

Wilkins Ice Shelf breaking away from Antarctica - ground level

From the article:

Mar 25, 2008 07:48 PM

WASHINGTON – A chunk of Antarctic ice about the size of Manhattan suddenly collapsed, putting an even greater portion of glacial ice at risk, scientists said today.

Satellite images show the runaway disintegration of a 414-square-kilometre chunk in western Antarctica, which started Feb. 28. It was the edge of the Wilkins ice shelf and has been there for hundreds, maybe 1,500 years.

This is the result of global warming, said British Antarctic Survey scientist David Vaughan.

Because scientists noticed satellite images within hours, they diverted satellite cameras and even flew an airplane over the ongoing collapse for rare pictures and video….

Wilkins Ice Shelf breakup

The rest of the Wilkins ice shelf, which is about twice the size of Prince Edward Island, is holding on by a narrow beam of thin ice. Scientists worry that it too may collapse. Larger, more dramatic ice collapses occurred in 2002 and 1995.

Vaughan had predicted the Wilkins shelf would collapse about 15 years from now. The part that recently gave way makes up about four per cent of the overall shelf, but it is an important part that can trigger further collapse.

There is still a chance the rest of the ice shelf will survive until next year because this is the end of the Antarctic summer and colder weather is setting in, Vaughan said.

Scientists said they are not concerned about a rise in sea level from the latest event, but say it is a sign of worsening global warming.

Wilkins Ice Shelf breakup, from air

Such occurrences are “more indicative of a tipping point or trigger in the climate system,” said Sarah Das, a scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.

“These are things that are not re-forming,” Das said. “So once they’re gone, they’re gone.”

Climate in Antarctica is complicated and more isolated from the rest of the world.

Much of the continent is not warming and some parts are even cooling, Vaughan said. However, the western peninsula, which includes the Wilkins ice shelf, juts out into the ocean and is warming. This is the part of the continent where scientists are most concern about ice-melt triggering sea level rise.

breakup of Wilkins Ice Shelf, Antarctica

See also: Wilkins Ice Shelf on verge of collapse (MSNBC) .

For previous events, see “Ross Ice Shelf break-up in Antarctic,” (Dec. 20, 2006), “Dude, where’s my ice shelf?” (Dec. 30, 2006), and  “Arctic Ice reaches new low in historic times” (Aug. 2007).

8 Responses to “Wilkins Ice Shelf collapses in Antarctica”

  1. Ross Ice Shelf break-up in Arctic « Science Notes Says:

    […] further developments, see “Wilkins Ice Shelf collapses in Antarctica.” Posted in science. Tags: Antarctica, climate, science, […]

  2. Dude, where’s my ice shelf? « Science Notes Says:

    […] Recent Comments Dude, where’s … on Arctic ice reaches a new low i…Arctic ice reaches a… on Dude, where’s my ice she…Dude, where’s … on Ross Ice Shelf break-up in Ant…Ross Ice Shelf break… on Dude, where’s my ice she…Ross Ice Shelf break… on Wilkins Ice Shelf collapses in… […]

  3. LDII Bekasi Says:

    Folks, we have no time any more, Let’s take action to safe the earth, Right now!!

  4. Anthony Says:

    Why all the fuss, these selfs have been collapsing into the ocean for as long as they have been large enough to do so.
    And besides is it such a surprise, modern man has been shifting (mining) the global mass since day dot. Only in the last few decades has he (mankind) gone overboard with the industrial madness (greed). Add to that the pumping (draining) of the crude oil, lets face it the majority of those responsible still have little idea how the earth uses this resource.
    Hint : vibration damper (shock absorber), a lubricant and a fuel. Much like LPG.
    The Earths’ “wobble” is getting worse hence the occurrence of Earth quakes. The ocean tides are affected, this adds to further stress on the poles. And the Earths’ frequency Has changed too. This could have something to do with our use of 50-60 hz power grid. Deforestation, a society with a cultivated “throw-away” mentality the list goes on.
    In short. … You people wont listen anyway and those that do will be fobbed off by your hypocritical chain of command.
    Anyway, thanks for the story.

  5. monado Says:

    I think the point is that major ice shelves do not collapse all the time. Penguins are starving because their usual way on and off the ice is gone, so they can’t get back onto the ice to feed their chicks. Where the ice shelf comes to rest, they’re starving again because suddenly it’s another 130 km to the ocean.

    Earthquakes are caused by convective currents in the magma and the sliding around of continents. If the earth were the size of an apple, its oceans and atmosphere would be thinner than its skin. So I don’t think pumping a little oil is going to unbalance the planet. You’re throwing together a mishmash of ideas with no idea of the scale of the earth.

  6. fresh Says:

    Everyone just needs to save their world. Do your goddamn part and so will everyone else.

  7. Cool J Cube Says:

    We should start shipping refrigerators, freezers and air conditioners down there ASAP. This must be stopped and stopped quickly. I say “Nip it in the bud”!

  8. monado Says:

    Ha-ha. They generate heat outside themselves, you know, to cool their insides. Entropy increases.

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