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> Giant ice shelf collapses off Ellesmere, Canada
Blind Man



  Posted: Dec 29 2006, 02:56 AM
Quote Post
Giant ice shelf collapses off Ellesmere
Thursday, December 28, 2006
"An ancient ice shelf has cracked off northern Ellesmere Island, creating an enormous, 66-square-kilometre ice island and leaving a trail of icy blocks in its wake."

"It really is incredible," says Warwick Vincent of Laval University, one of the few people to have laid eyes on the scene. "It's like a cruise missile has come down and hit the ice shelf."

The breakup was so powerful, earthquake monitors 250 kilometres away picked up the tremors as the 3,000- to 4,500 year-old shelf tore away from its fjord on Ellesmere.

It broke up 16 months ago, but no one was present to see it. The scientists say they are only now releasing details after piecing together what occurred using seismic monitors and Canadian and U.S. satellites.

They say the ice shelf collapse is the biggest in Canada in 30 years and is indicative of the transformation underway on Ellesmere, Canada's most northern landmass.

"We're seeing incredible changes," says Vincent, whose group is studying the island's disappearing ice shelves and their unique ecosystems.

"People talk of endangered animals -- well, these are endangered landscape features, and we're losing them," says Vincent. In 2002, his graduate student Derek Mueller discovered Ellesmere's Ward Hunt Ice Shelf had cracked in half. The researchers have also seen the sudden collapse of ice dams and the draining of 30-kilometre-long lakes into the sea.

The Ayles Ice Shelf was one of six ice shelves left in Canada, remnants of a vast icy fringe that used to cover the top end of Ellesmere. Scientists consider the Canadian shelves, located about 800 kilometres south of the North Pole, sentinels that refl ect the accelerating change in the Arctic.

The shelves are 90 per cent smaller than they were when Arctic explorer Robert Peary crossed them in 1906. And the Ayles ice shelf can now be erased from Canada's maps. "It no longer exists," says Vincent.

Laurie Weir, of the federal Canadian Ice Service in Ottawa, was poring over images from the RADARSAT satellite when she noticed the shelf had broken away. She passed the information on to Luke Copland, head of the new global ice lab at the University of Ottawa, who led the effort to determine what had happened.

It turned out it took less than an hour for the ice shelf to calve off in the early afternoon of Aug. 13, 2005, says Copland. Low frequency "rumbling" and tremors were picked up on Alert's earthquake monitors, and Canadian and U.S. satellites captured images of the shelf cracking and breaking away.

"If you were standing right on the edge of the shelf, there'd have been this huge 15-kilometre crack as far as you could see in both directions," says Copland. "And then the ice drifted off." Within an hour, the giant ice island was a kilometre offshore.

It travelled west about 50 kilometres over the next few weeks, and then moved east before freezing into the sea ice about 15 kilometres offshore."

Glub Glub



Posted: Dec 29 2006, 03:26 AM
Quote Post
Ross Ice Shelf could 'collapse quickly'
November 29, 2006
SCIENTISTS working in Antarctica fear the Ross Ice Shelf, an ice platform the size of France, could collapse quickly and trigger a rapid rise in sea levels.

A research team drilling in the frozen continent has recovered three million years of climate history, New Zealand newspaper The Press reported today.

An analysis of sea floor samples near Scott Base suggested the Ross Ice Shelf had collapsed before, probably suddenly.

Scientist Tim Naish said the sediment record gave crucial evidence about how the Ross Ice Shelf would react to climate change.

"If the past is any indication of the future, then the ice shelf will collapse," he told the newspaper.

"If the ice shelf goes, then what about the West Antarctic Ice Sheet? What we've learnt from the Antarctic Peninsula is when once buttressing ice sheets go, the glaciers feeding them move faster and that's the thing that isn't so cheery."

Antarctica stores 90 per cent of the world's (fresh - ds) water, with the the West Antarctic Ice Sheet holding an estimated 30 million cu km.

In January, British Antarctic Survey researchers predicted that its collapse would make sea levels rise by at least 5m, with other estimates predicting a rise of up to 17m.

Mr Naish, a sedimentologist with the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences, said the team was retrieving a detailed history of the ice shelf.

"We know from the Larsen Ice Shelf (which collapsed on the Antarctic Peninsula in 2002) that they go extremely quickly," he said.,23599...-23109,00.html


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