Antarctic Ice Bridge Breaks, Hastening the Collapse of an Ice Sheet

By Eliza Strickland | April 6, 2009 9:41 am

Wilkins ice shelfAn ice bridge between two Antarctic islands that pinned the vast Wilkins Ice Shelf in place has splintered, and researchers say the change will probably accelerate the disintegration of the ice shelf, which is currently the size of Connecticut. Temperatures on the Antarctic Peninsula, which reaches up towards the bottom tip of South America, have risen by five degrees Fahrenheit over the past 50 years; researchers believe the continent is being reshaped by global warming.

The ice bridge between the islands Charcot and Latady shattered suddenly, says glaciologist David Vaughan: “It’s amazing how the ice has ruptured. Two days ago it was intact.” … The break left a jumble of huge flat-topped icebergs in the sea. The loss of the ice bridge, which was almost [60 miles] wide in 1950 and had been in place for hundreds of years at least, could allow ocean currents to wash away more of the Wilkins. “My feeling is that we will lose more of the ice, but there will be a remnant to the south,” Vaughan said [Reuters].

Since 1950, nine other ice sheets have drastically retreated or collapsed completely around the Antarctic Peninsula. While the latest 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 [BBC News].

Related Content:
80beats: Antarctic Ice Sheet Has Collapsed Before, and Looks Likely to Collapse Again
80beats: A Rising Tide Swamps All Coasts: New Estimates of Sea Level Rise Spell Global Trouble
80beats: Antarctic Ice Melt Would Shift Earth’s Axis, Further Changing Sea Level
80beats: Antarctica Is Definitely Feeling the Heat From Global Warming
DISCOVER: The Ground Zero of Climate Change is the West Antarctic Ice Sheet

Image: British Antarctic Survey

  • FILTHpig

    Global warming is not a myth. It is obviously very real. Now, what are we supposed to do about it?

  • Bruce

    There are many different things we can do about it. All we are really lacking is the money to get it done, or rather, the will to USE the money to get it done.

  • Michael

    This ice shelf, along with several others, was not present during the medieval warm period, and grew during the subsequent ‘little ice age’. The fact that’s breaking up shouldn’t come as any surprise. The ‘fact’ that it’s due to CO2 emissions is a farce. In addition, this shelf area of Antarctica represents about 2% of the land area of that continent. Note also that the much, much larger Greenland ice sheet grew at an average of 2″ anually from 1993-2003.

    Cherry-picking data is one of the oldest and most reprehensible techniques of political or religious ‘scientists’. I suggest that everyone really interested in climate change [ it IS changing ] do their own research without bias and come to their own conclusions.


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


80beats is DISCOVER's news aggregator, weaving together the choicest tidbits from the best articles covering the day's most compelling topics.

See More

Collapse bottom bar