Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Ice shelves quickly disappearing as Arctic warms

Randy Boswell in the Montreal Gazette: Two of Canada's top experts on the state of the country's Arctic ice shelves say the region's latest summer meltdown has led to the virtual disappearance of one of these "unique and massive geographical features" and the continued disintegration of several others, adding up to a 50 per cent loss of the ancient structures over the past six years.

The Serson Ice Shelf, which extended across 205 square kilometres of Ellesmere Island's northern coastline just five years ago, has been reduced after more disintegration this summer to two sections of just 25 square kilometres and seven square kilometres.

More breakups have occurred on the nearby Ward Hunt Ice Shelf, along the coast of Canada's northernmost island, compounding previous calving episodes that destroyed the Markham and Ayles ice shelves in recent years.

"Since the end of July, pieces equalling 1 1/2 times the size of Manhattan Island have broken off," said Luke Copland, a geographer at the University of Ottawa, said in a statement released Tuesday with colleague Derek Mueller, an ice scientist at Carleton University, also in Ottawa. "This is our coastline changing," added Mueller. "These unique and massive geographical features that we consider to be part of the map of Canada are disappearing and they won't come back."...

Two NASA image from 2002 show ice breaking away from the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf

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