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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Chunk of Antarctic ice shelf collapses, putting larger area at risk; global warming blamed

Chunk of Antarctic ice shelf collapses, putting larger area at risk; global warming blamed

Last update: March 25, 2008 - 10:04 PM

WASHINGTON - A chunk of Antarctic ice about seven times the size of Manhattan suddenly collapsed, putting an even greater portion of glacial ice at risk, scientists said Tuesday.

Satellite images show the runaway disintegration of a 160-square-mile chunk in western Antarctica, which started Feb. 28. It was the edge of the Wilkins ice shelf and has been there for hundreds, maybe 1,500 years.

The rest of the Wilkins ice shelf, which is about the size of Connecticut, is holding on by a narrow beam of thin ice. Scientists worry that it too may collapse. Larger, more dramatic ice collapses occurred in 2002 and 1995.

Vaughan had predicted the Wilkins shelf would collapse about 15 years from now. The part that recently gave way makes up about 4 percent of the overall shelf, but it's an important part that can trigger further collapse.

On the Net:

The National Snow and Ice Data Center: http://nsidc.org

The British Antarctic Survey: http://www.bas.ac.uk/



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