Antarcticas Wilkins Ice shelf experiences further break-up

June 14th, 2008 - 1:55 pm ICT by ANI  

Paris, June 14 (ANI): The Wilkins Ice Shelf in Antarctica has broken up further, with an area of about 160 km sq. breaking off from May 30 to May 31, 2008.

The Wilkins Ice Shelf, a broad plate of floating ice south of South America on the Antarctic Peninsula, is connected to two islands, Charcot and Latady.

According to a report in ESA (European Space Agency), in February 2008, an area of about 400 km sq. broke off from the ice shelf, narrowing the connection down to a 6 km strip.

Now, ESAs Envisat satellite has captured the latest break-off event, which has reduced the strip to just 2.7 km.

Images acquired by Envisats Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar (ASAR) between 30 May and 9 June, have highlighted the rapidly dwindling strip of ice that is protecting thousands of kilometers of the ice shelf from further break-up.

According to Dr Matthias Braun from the Center for Remote Sensing of Land Surfaces, Bonn University, and Dr Angelika Humbert from the Institute of Geophysics, Munster University, who have been investigating the dynamics of Wilkins Ice Shelf for months, this break-up has not yet finished.

The remaining plate has an arched fracture at its narrowest position, making it very likely that the connection will break completely in the coming days, they said.

Long-term satellite monitoring over Antarctica is important because it provides authoritative evidence of trends and allows scientists to make predictions.

Ice shelves on the Antarctic Peninsula are important indicators for on-going climate change because they are sandwiched by extraordinarily raising surface air temperatures and a warming ocean.

The Antarctic Peninsula has experienced extraordinary warming in the past 50 years of 2.5degC, explained Braun and Humbert.

In the past 20 years, seven ice shelves along the peninsula have retreated or disintegrated, including the most spectacular break-up of the Larsen B Ice Shelf in 2002, which Envisat captured within days of its launch. (ANI)

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