Posted by: JohnnyRook | July 11, 2008

UPDATE: Bridge to Wilkins Ice Shelf Faces Imminent Collapse

The European Space Agency released stunning images today showing that the breakup of the ice bridge anchoring the Wilkins Ice Shelf to Charcot Island is imminent. (Observe how the ice bridge shrinks and cracks as the photos progress.) Between February 28 and March 8 of this year, the ice shelf lost 2717 km2. (See this diary for background information and a discussion of the earlier breakup). According to Dr Matthias Braun of the Center for Remote Sensing of Land Surfaces at Bonn University, in this most recent event another 1350 km2 have broken off. Between 500 and 700 km2 will be added to that if the ice bridge collapses completely.

The total area of the ice shelf which would be exposed by the collapse of the ice bridge is 13,680 km2.

The Wilkins Ice Shelf is located on the west side of the Antarctic Peninsula. See map here.

According to Ted Scambos of the National Snow and Ice Data Center:

The scale of rifting in the newly-removed areas seems larger, and the pieces are moving out as large bergs and not toppled, finely-divided ice melange…

The persistently low sea ice cover in the area and data from some interesting sources, electronic seal hats [caps worn by seals that provide temperature, depth and position data] seems to suggest that warm water beneath the halocline may be reaching the underside of the Wilkins Ice Shelf and thinning it rapidly – and perhaps reaching the surface, or at least mixing with surface waters.

In response to the news of recent events, David Vaughan of the British Antarctic Survey declared.

Current events are showing that we were being too conservative, when we made the prediction in the early 1990s that Wilkins Ice Shelf would be lost within thirty years – the truth is it is going more quickly than we guessed.

Increasingly, this is what we are hearing from scientists around the world. Contrary to what Climaticide denialists maintain, scientists’projections regarding the progress of global warming generally have been too cautious. Events which were projected to take place within in 30 or 40 years are happening NOW. Another prime example is the melting of Arctic sea ice. While earlier projections had the North Pole completely free of sea ice in summer by 2040, we now know that Arctic sea ice is melting so fast that scientists believe it will be all gone by 2012. Some even think it may all melt this year.

Meanwhile, the Bush Administration is proposing that the US begin to stop the growth (not reduce emissions, just stop their growth) of carbon emissions by 2025.

Any bets on how many Connecticuts, New Jerseys or maybe Texases will have broken up and fallen into the sea by then?

[Crossposted at Daily Kos]

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