Ice Shelves on Antarctic Peninsula in danger

February 23rd, 2010 - 1:48 am ICT by BNO News  

RESTON, VIRGINIA (BNO NEWS) – Ice shelves in the southern section of the Antarctic Peninsula are in danger because of global warming issues, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said Monday.

The sea-level could rise dramatically if the ice shelves break off, which hold in place the Antarctic ice sheet that covers about 98 percent of the Antarctic continent. The ice shelves are attached to the continent, but they are already floating. As they break off, outlet glaciers and ice streams are more likely to set out into the sea, further transitioning from ice that formed land, to ocean water.

A sea-level rise could highly affect densely populated coastal regions, as well as low-lying islands worldwide.

The Antarctic Peninsula’s southern section as described in this study contains five major ice shelves, and the ice lost from the Wilkins Ice Shelf alone totals more than 4,000 square kilometers, an area larger than the state of Rhode Island.

The West Antarctic part alone of the Antarctic ice sheet could cause a sea-level rise of approximately 6 meters if it melted, and the potential sea-level rise after melting of the entire Antarctic ice sheet is estimated to be 65 to 73 meters.

“This research is part of a larger ongoing USGS project that is for the first time studying the entire Antarctic coastline in detail, and this is important because the Antarctic ice sheet contains 91 percent of Earth’s glacier ice,” said a USGS geologist. “The loss of ice shelves is evidence of the effects of global warming. We need to be alert and continually understand and observe how our climate system is changing.”

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