All The News That Fits

Context Is Everything

Posted by Nancy on July 2, 2009

ABC News posted the following article in April, about an event that was trumpeted many places as portending dire consequences:

 Parts of the ice shelf now look like shattered panes of glass. (British Antarctic Survey)

The Wilkins Ice Shelf in Antarctica is in the final stages of collapse and scientists are concerned the event shows climate change is happening faster than previously thought.

An ice bridge, up to 40 kilometres long but at its narrowest just 500 metres wide, was thought to be holding the giant shelf to the Antarctic continent but it recently snapped.

From above, parts of the Wilkins Ice Shelf now look like giant panes of shattered glass.

British Antarctic Survey glaciologist Professor David Vaughan has been monitoring the Wilkins Ice Shelf for some time with the help of satellite imagery.

“The ice shelf has almost exploded into a large number, hundreds of small icebergs,” he said.

“The images on the European Space Agency website show that the ice bridge was relatively stable for the past month or two.

“In fact we visited the ice bridge – we landed on it with an aircraft and put a GPS, a satellite positioning system, onto the ice shelf. And that’s another way we’ve been monitoring its movements over the last few weeks.”

Researchers believe the ice bridge was an important barrier, keeping the rest of the ice shelf in place.

Dr Ted Scambos, the lead scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Centre at the University of Colorado, told ABC Radio National he was concerned.

“The follow on is that large chunks of ice break away from the area that’s become unstable because it’s no longer braced,” he said.

“And we see a retreat to a smaller ice shelf, or perhaps no ice shelf at all. It’s in the last stages. Right now I think about half the Wilkins will remain after this is done.”

The size of the impact on sea levels is still being debated but scientists believe climate change is affecting the Antarctic to a greater extent than previously expected.

Events on the Antarctic peninsula have prompted the US Interior Secretary, Ken Salazar, to release a statement saying it “demonstrates once again the profound effects our planet is already experiencing, more rapidly than previously thought, as a consequence of climate change”


The Wilkins Ice Shelf can be located in the upper left of the following graphic,between two irregularities along the coast of the peninsula, left of Fossil Bluff.  Unfortunately, it’s not marked.


The following video demonstrates 30 years of ice fluctuation between summer and winter, showing the clockwise movement of the ice as it is acted upon by winds and ocean currents.  The videoalso seems to show this is not the first time the Wilkins Ice Field has disintegrated.

Are reports of the ice field’s collapse accurate?  Maybe.  Look at the photo that accompanied the ABC article again – does that look like melting ice, or ice that has been fractured by wind and shifting ocean currents?   

Again, science is being subjugated to political expediency.


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