الرئيسية / التيكنولوجيا / See the grim demise of Canada’s last ice shelf
See the grim demise of Canada’s last ice shelf

See the grim demise of Canada’s last ice shelf

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The Arctic is unraveling.

This rapidly warming region — now heating up three times faster than the global average — has a new casualty. Last week, the Canadian Ice Service said the nation’s last fully intact ice shelf (the large ends of glaciers that float over the ocean) had collapsed. The shelf, cracking apart, lost 43 percent of its size in a matter of days, amounting to 32 square miles.

That’s larger than Manhattan. 

The dramatic change to the Milne Ice Shelf, on Ellesmere Island, is now visible via before-and-after satellite images captured by the satellite imaging company Planet Labs. Ice shelves in the area have been shrinking or falling apart for over a century.

“This drastic decline in ice shelves is clearly related to climate change,” Luke Copland, a glacier scientist at the University of Ottawa, said in a statement

“This summer has been up to 5°C [9 degrees Fahrenheit] warmer than the average over the period from 1981 to 2010, and the region has been warming at two to three times the global rate,” Copland added. “The Milne and other ice shelves in Canada are simply not viable any longer and will disappear in the coming decades.”

The Milne Ice Shelf on July 26, 2020

Image: Planet Labs inc.

The Milne Ice Shelf on July 31, 2020.

The Milne Ice Shelf on July 31, 2020.

Image: Planet labs inc.

Above normal temperatures along with winds and open water beyond Milne led to the shelf’s collapse, the Canadian Ice Service said.

In 1900, a singular, formidable, 3,320 square-mile (8,600 square-kilometer) ice shelf sprawled across Ellesmere Island’s northern coast. By 2000, this shelf had melted into six smaller shelves, encompassing just 405 square miles.

Now the last of these intact ice shelves has collapsed. Remnants of the new disintegration, great chunks of ice some 230 feet thick, float beside the island. 

The events on Ellesmere Island follow a pattern of extreme melt and warming in the Arctic:

Temperatures are rising all around the globe. But in the Arctic the environmental disruption — stoked by skyrocketing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere — is constant and vivid.

 

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