Ice Shelf Collapses In Previously Stable East Antarctica

An ice shelf the dimensions of New York City has collapsed in East Antarctica, an space lengthy regarded as secure and never hit a lot by local weather change, involved scientists stated Friday.

The collapse, captured by satellite tv for pc pictures, marked the primary time in human historical past that the frigid area had an ice shelf collapse. It occurred initially of a freakish heat spell final week when temperatures soared greater than 70 levels (40 Celsius) hotter than regular in some spots of East Antarctica. Satellite pictures present the world had been shrinking quickly the final couple of years, and now scientists say they marvel if they’ve been overestimating East Antarctica’s stability and resistance to world warming that has been melting ice quickly on the smaller western facet and the weak peninsula.

The ice shelf, about 460 sq. miles huge (1200 sq. kilometers) holding within the Conger and Glenzer glaciers from the hotter water, collapsed between March 14 and 16, stated ice scientist Catherine Walker of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. She stated scientists have by no means seen this occur on this a part of the continent and that makes it worrisome.

“The Glenzer Conger ice shelf presumably had been there for thousands of years and it’s not ever going to be there again,” stated University of Minnesota ice scientist Peter Neff.

This satellite image provided by NASA on February 2022 shows the ice shelf and surrounding area pre-collapse.
This satellite tv for pc picture offered by NASA on February 2022 exhibits the ice shelf and surrounding space pre-collapse.

The challenge isn’t the quantity of ice misplaced on this collapse, Neff and Walker stated. It’s negligible. But it’s extra in regards to the the place it occurred.

Neff stated he worries that earlier assumptions about East Antarctica’s stability is probably not so proper. And that’s necessary as a result of the water frozen in East Antarctica if it melted — and that’s a millennia-long course of if not longer — would elevate seas throughout the globe greater than 160 toes (50 meters). It’s greater than 5 instances the ice within the extra weak West Antarctic Ice Sheet, the place scientists have concentrated a lot of their analysis.

Scientists had been seeing the ice shelf shrink a bit for the reason that Nineteen Seventies, Neff stated. Then in 2020, the shelf’s ice loss sped as much as shedding about half of itself each month or so, Walker stated.

“We probably are seeing the result of a lot of long time increased ocean warming there,” Walker stated. “it’s just been melting and melting.”

And then final week’s warming “probably is something like, you know, the last straw on the camel’s back.”

Associated Press local weather and environmental protection receives help from a number of personal foundations. See extra about AP’s local weather initiative right here. The AP is solely liable for all content material.

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