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Scientists blame global warming for Antarctica ice shelf collapse

Published on 26/03/2008

 26 March 2008

Washington (dpa) – Scientists Tuesday are blaming global warming for the collapse of a giant slab off Antarctica’s Wilkins Ice Shelf.

Looking at NASA satellite images a glaciologist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) at the University of Colorado at Boulder noticed part of the Wilkins ice shelf disintegrating on February 28, with a large iceberg measuring 41 kilometres by 2.4km fell from the south-western front of the ice shelf.

The area of collapse is about 415 square km and a large part of the ice shelf is now supported by only a thin strip of ice, according to thee NSIDC.

The Wilkins Ice Shelf is a broad sheet of permanent floating ice that spans about 13,000 square km on the south-west Antarctic Peninsula, 1,600 km south of South America.

In the past 50 years the western Antarctic peninsula has warmed by 0.5 degrees Celsius each decade, fastest temperature rise world-wide.

NSIDC scientist Ted Scambos said this ice shelf has been in place for at least a few hundred years, but warm air and exposure to ocean waves are causing the break-up.

As Antarctica’s summer is coming to an end, Scambos said he does not expect the ice shelf to disintegrate further immediately.

[Copyright dpa 2008]