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Antarctic Wilkins Ice Shelf Collapse

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Uploaded on Mar 27, 2008

Satellite imagery from the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder reveals that a 13,680 square kilometer (5,282 square mile) ice shelf has begun to collapse because of rapid climate change in a fast-warming region of Antarctica.

British Antarctic Survey has captured dramatic satellite and video images of an Antarctic ice shelf that looks set to be the latest to break out from the Antarctic Peninsula. A large part of the Wilkins Ice Shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula is now supported only by a thin strip of ice hanging between two islands. It is another identifiable impact of climate change on the Antarctic environment.

Scientists monitoring satellite images of the Wilkins Ice Shelf spotted that a huge (41 by 2.5 km) km2 berg the size of the Isle of Man appears to have broken away in recent days -- it is still on the move.

Glaciologist Ted Scambos from the University of Colorado alerted colleagues Professor David Vaughan and Andrew Fleming of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) that the ice shelf looked at risk. After checking daily satellite pictures, BAS sent a Twin Otter aircraft on a reconnaissance mission to check out the extent of the breakout.

Jim Elliott was onboard the BAS Twin Otter to capture video of the breakout for Vaughan and colleagues. He says,

"I've never seen anything like this before -- it was awesome. We flew along the main crack and observed the sheer scale of movement from the breakage. Big hefty chunks of ice, the size of small houses, look as though they've been thrown around like rubble -- it's like an explosion."

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