As yet more proof of the disturbing effects of global warming, a massive chunk of ice, estimated at 22 miles by 12 miles, has broken off of the continent of Antarctica.
We already know that during 2012, the Arctic broke several climate records, including a level of unprecedented warmth that created rapid ice loss.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) warned in its “The State of the Climate in 2012“ report that last year was one of the 10 hottest years since the beginning of recording global average temperatures.
As a result, it seems that the North Pole is turning into the North Pool.Now it seems that the South Pole is just as much at risk thanks to climate change.
The Singapore-sized chunk of ice broke off from Pine Island Glacier in Western Antarctica.
Scientists originally noticed a crack forming in October 2011, so it has taken two years for the iceberg, known as B-31, to finally move away from the coast. They were not entirely surprised, since the shelf of Pine Island Glacier has been inching forward at the rate of 2.5 miles a year, and large chunks have been seen breaking off every five or six years, but this chunk of ice is twice the size of any previous ones.
You can watch video of this dramatic rupture here:
At this point, no one knows whether the iceberg will stay trapped in Pine Island Bay or get set adrift in the Southern Ocean. In that case, it could pose major problems for shipping lanes.
Recognizing this dangerous possibility, researchers from the UK have been awarded an emergency grant to track this vast iceberg.
From the BBC:
“From the time it had been found that the crack had gone all the way across in July, it had stayed iced-in because it was still winter (in Antarctica),” explained principal investigator Grant Bigg from the University of Sheffield.
A Nasa aircraft was the first to detect the expanding crack across the Pine Island Glacier in 2011.
“But in the last couple of days, it has begun to break away and now a kilometre or two of clear water has developed between it and the glacier.
“It often takes a while for bergs from this area to get out of Pine Island Bay but once they do that they can either go eastwards along the coast or they can… circle out into the main part of the Southern Ocean.
The effects of sea ice melt are not always negative. In fact, it is precisely because of sea ice melt that new shipping lanes are opening up in the Arctic.
Richard Milne at The Financial Times reports that melting ice is raising the prospect of an important new route for trade between Asia and Europe that shaves thousands of miles off the trip.
That’s not the case in Antarctica, where B-31 could pose major problems for big ships.
With the earth the hottest it’s been in 11,000 years, it’s not surprising that glaciers are melting around the world.
As Care2′s Kristina Chew wrote here, 1,600 years of ice in the Andes has melted in just a quarter of a century.
When are we going to sit up and start taking carbon emissions seriously? Not any time soon, sadly, as the recent United Nations climate talks in Warsaw failed to reach an agreement in key areas.
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