Sunday, April 19, 2009
As though commenting on world leader's lack of progress in combating climate change at the G20 conference last week, an ice bridge connecting the Wilkins Ice Shelf to the Antarctic continent broke off over the weekend. Long expected by scientists, the break is perhaps the beginning of the Wilkins Ice Shelf completely coming loose from Antarctica.
Splitting at its thinnest point of 500 meters the 25-mile-long ice bridge connected the Wilkins Ice Shelf to Charcot and Latardy islands. The Wilkins Ice Shelf has become famous for being the largest of ten Antarctic ice shelves to have collapsed or shrunk recently, most likely due to rising temperatures in the Antarctic. In the past 50 years, Antarctic temperature have risen approximately 3 degrees Celsius (5 degrees Fahrenheit), which is about three times the global surface temperature increase.
Scientists worry that the loss of the ice bridge may allow water currents to melt the Wilkins Ice Shelf far faster, eventually leaving the ice shelf a disintegrating island.