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5/01/2009

ESA: Wilkins Ice Shelf is now unstable

The European Space Agency says satellite images show icebergs have begun to calve from the northern front of the Wilkins Ice Shelf in Antarctica. ESA scientists said the images indicate the huge shelf has become unstable following the collapse three weeks ago of the ice bridge that linked the Antarctic mainland with Charcot Island. That ice bridge, said the ESA, effectively formed a barrier pinning back the northern ice front of the central Wilkins Ice Shelf. It collapsed April 5, removing about 127 square miles of ice.
Radar images from the ESA's Envisat satellite and the German Aerospace Center's TerraSAR-X satellite show approximately 270 square miles of ice have been lost from the Wilkins Ice Shelf.

Image : For millions of years, Antarctica, the frozen continent at the southern end of the planet, has been encased in a gigantic sheet of ice. Recently, the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite has been taking sensitive measurements of the gravity for the entire Earth, including Antarctica. Recent analysis of GRACE data indicate that the Antarctic ice sheet might have lost enough mass to cause the worlds' oceans to rise about .05 inches, on the average, from between 2002 and 2005. The picture was taken on the Riiser-Larsen ice shelf in December 1995. (UPI Photo/NASA/GRACE team/DLR/Ben Holt Sr.)
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