March 26, 2008 in Nation/World

Chunk of Antarctic ice shelf collapses

Seth Borenstein Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

This March 6 image shows part of the Wilkins Ice Shelf on the Southwest Antarctic Peninsula as it began to break apart. Associated Press
(Full-size photo)

WASHINGTON – A chunk of Antarctic ice about seven times the size of Manhattan suddenly collapsed, putting an even greater portion of glacial ice at risk, scientists said Tuesday.

Satellite images show the runaway disintegration of a 160-square-mile chunk in western Antarctica, which started Feb. 28. It was the edge of the Wilkins Ice Shelf and has been there for possibly 1,500 years.

The collapse was the result of global warming, said British Antarctic Survey scientist David Vaughan.

Because scientists noticed satellite images within hours, they diverted satellite cameras and flew an airplane over the collapse to collect pictures.

While icebergs naturally break away from the mainland, collapses like this are unusual but are happening more frequently in recent decades, Vaughan said.

The rest of the Wilkins Ice Shelf, which is about the size of Connecticut, is holding on by a narrow beam of thin ice.

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