- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 20, 2002

ASSOCIATED PRESS
An enormous floating ice shelf in Antarctica that has existed since the last Ice Age 12,000 years ago collapsed this month with staggering speed during one of the warmest summers on record there, scientists say.
Scientists would not blame the collapse on global warming caused by human activity but noted that the ice shelf had persisted through previous climate changes well before the dawn of civilization.
"It's a profound event," said geologist Christina Hulbe of Portland State University. "This ice shelf has endured many climate oscillations over many thousands of years. Now it's gone."
Satellite images show that the piece of the Larsen Ice Shelf collapsed during a five-week period that ended March 7. It splintered into a plume of drifting icebergs.
The collapsed area was designated Larsen B, and was 650 feet thick and with a surface area of 1,250 square miles, or about the size of Rhode Island.
Larsen B is separate from a new, giant iceberg that satellites are tracking off Antarctica.
The iceberg designated B-22 broke free from the Thwaites Ice Tongue, a peninsula of ice and snow extending into the Amundsen Sea on the other side of the Antarctic Peninsula. B-22 is about 53 miles long and 40 miles wide, according to the National Ice Center operated by the Navy.
In contrast, the Larsen ice shelf is on the Antarctic Peninsula and extends about 1,000 miles closer to the tip of South America than the rest of the continent.
In recent months, with the Southern Hemisphere's summer just beginning, temperatures were already creeping above freezing in the peninsula region. Scientists said there has also been a 50-year warming trend in the peninsula, which is considered a sensitive, early indicator of global climate change.
Previous measurements showed the Antarctic Peninsula has warmed an average of more than 4 degrees Fahrenheit during the past half-century, a rate that is as much as five times faster than the global average.
"We're seeing a very rapid and profound response by the ice sheet to a warming that's been around for just a few decades," said Ted Scambos of the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado.


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