Sunday, April 05, 2009

ANTARCTIC ICE SHELF ON THE VERGE OF COLLAPSE

DW, Germany - A huge ice shelf in the Antarctic is in the last stages of collapse and could break up within days. Scientists said Saturday that the enormous Wilkins ice shelf, which is about the same size as Jamaica, is now barely attached to land. Satellite pictures provided by the European Space Agency showed that the main bridge holding the ice shelf in place had snapped. The loss of the ice bridge could see the northern half of Wilkins break free, allowing a gigantic iceberg the size of a small country to float off on the ocean.

BBC - European Space Agency satellite pictures had indicated last week that cracks were starting to appear in the bridge. Newly created icebergs were seen to be floating in the sea on the western side of the peninsula, which juts up from the continent towards South America's southern tip. . .

While the break-up will have no direct impact on sea level because the ice is floating, it heightens concerns over the impact of climate change on this part of Antarctica. . .

Separate research shows that when ice shelves are removed, the glaciers and landed ice behind them start to move towards the ocean more rapidly. It is this ice which can raise sea levels, but by how much is a matter of ongoing scientific debate.