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Arctic ice island breaks in half

Click here to see the Canadian Ice Service website tracking the ice blocks.


The giant Ayles Ice Island drifting off Canada's northern shores has broken in two - far earlier than expected. Ice islands in the past might have lasted in the Arctic Ocean for 50 years or more. In a season of record summer melting in the region, the two chunks have moved rapidly through the water - one of them covering 98km (61 miles) in a week. Their progress has been tracked amid fears they could edge west towards oil and gas installations off Alaska.

The original Manhattan-sized berg (16km by five km; 10 miles by three miles) broke off the Ayles Ice Shelf in 2005. "It's relatively UNUSUAL for the ice island to drift so far south so quickly - many ice islands in the past have stayed within the Arctic Ocean, or within the northern parts of the Queen Elizabeth Islands."

The island had travelled so far south because of the small extent of Arctic ice this summer, influenced in turn by warmer conditions. "Ultimately, the ice island should break up faster because of the warmer temperatures - I'd be surprised if it lasted more than a decade or so." The team which landed on the Ayles ice block in May found it to have an average thickness of 42-45m (138-148ft) - the equivalent of the height of a 10-story building.
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