Wilkins Ice Shelf close to collapse

The Wilkins Ice Shelf is a curling, finger-like appendage of ice that reaches out from the continent of Antarctica. It’s been there for thousands of years. The shelf rises 60 feet (~20 meters) high out of the sea, and is attached to Antarctica via a few key bridges — one of which recently collapsed, leaving the future of the shelf in doubt. Antarctica has experienced a temperature rise of 2.5C in the last 50 years, making it a “hot spot” for global climate change, and making these ice shelves increasingly unstable.

Unsurprisingly, the most comprehensive stories about the collapse are coming from New Zealand, which is likely to see very large icebergs head its way if/when the shelf collapses completely. Wilkins is not large enough to contribute to a rise in ocean levels by itself, but it’s part of an alarming and quickening trend. Ten such shelves have broken off, broken up, or collapsed in recent years.

Posted on April 6th, 2009 by Katxena