Antarctica ice shelf shrinks by 85%

2012-04-05 14:01
Paris - A vast ice shelf in the Antarctic peninsula, a hotspot for global warming, has shrunk by 85% in 17 years, the European Space Agency (ESA) said on Thursday.

Images taken by its Envisat satellite show that the so-called Larsen B ice shelf decreased from 11 512km² in 1995, an area about the size of the Gulf state of Qatar, to only 1 670km² today.

Larsen B is one of three ice shelves that run from north to south along the eastern side of the peninsula, the tongue of land that projects toward South America.

From 1995 to 2002, Larsen B experienced several calving events in which parts of the shelf broke away. It had a major breakup in 2002 when half of the remainder disintegrated. Larsen A broke up in January 1995.

"Larsen C so far has been stable in area, but satellite observations have shown thinning and an increasing duration of melt events in summer," the agency said in a press release.

Sensitive

Ice shelves are thick floating mats of ice, attached to the shore, that are created by the runoff into the sea from glaciers.

Scientists say they are extremely sensitive to changes in atmospheric temperature and can be hollowed out from below by warmer ocean currents.

The northern Antarctic peninsula has been subject to atmospheric warming about 2.5°C over the last 50 years, a figure that is several times greater than the global average.

Ice shelves are not the same as ice sheets, the vast blanket of frozen water that covers Antarctica.

If these melted, even partially, they would drive up sea levels, threatening small island states and coastal cities. But the scientific evidence is that the ice sheets so far are stable.

"These observations are very relevant for measuring the future behaviour of the much larger ice masses of West Antarctica if warming spreads further south," ESA quoted Helmut Rott, a professor at the University of Innsbruck in Austria, as saying.
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
10 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24

 
/News

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

40% off top appliances!

Save 40% on the top 10 appliances on kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

Save 20% on Camping gear!

Buy 4 camping items and save 20%. While stocks last. Shop now!

Fifty Shades of Grey!

This great read will captivate you from cover to cover and leave you itching for more. Get your copy now!

20% off braai items!

Save 20% when you buy 2 braai items. While stocks last. Shop now!

30% off Pampers!

Save 30% when you buy 3 or more selected pampers products. While stocks last. Shop now!

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

There is a strong focus on sharing the optimistic energy with your loved one. You are in the mood to go large and impress your...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.