Giant Ice Shelf Breaks Off From Canadian Arctic by Dena Ventrudo

This is no joke.

This particular news story has gotten the attention of hundreds, possibly thousands, of new sources across the world. Right here in the U.S. it was reported by ABC, CNN, FOX, etc. It has been printed in USA Today, The Washington Post, The International Herald, and every Canadian paper. Yet somehow the news hasn’t been buzzing everywhere I went this weekend.

I suppose all the excitement over Saddam’s execution and New Years preparations took priority over this huge, Earth altering event.

An ice shelf the size of 11,000 football fields first broke off near the North Pole and floated away, leaving ice boulders in its wake back in 2003, and has since broken and floated furtherand further. Nothing has beendone since the first initial break.

The approaching spring thaw could sendthis ice shelf (or as us lay people might call it,gigantic iceberg)toward oil rigs, ships, and other dangerous paths. An ice shelf that was one of 6 (3,000 year old) ice shelves remaining in Canada’s Arctic, has melted…

I’m considering an investment in boats.

The Associated Press

Thursday, December 28, 2006


A giant ice shelf has snapped free from an island south of the North Pole, scientists said Thursday, citing climate change as a “major” reason for the event.

The Ayles Ice Shelf – 66 square kilometers (41 square miles) of it – broke clear 16 months ago from the coast of Ellesmere Island, about 800 kilometers (500 miles) south of the North Pole in the Canadian Arctic.

Scientists discovered the event by using satellite imagery. Within one hour of breaking free, the shelf had formed as a new ice island, leaving a trail of icy boulders floating in its wake.

Warwick Vincent of Laval University, who studies Arctic conditions, traveled to the newly formed ice island and was amazed at the sight.

“This is a dramatic and disturbing event. It shows that we are losing remarkable features of the Canadian North that have been in place for many thousands of years,” Vincent said. “We are crossing climate thresholds, and these may signal the onset of accelerated change ahead.”

The ice shelf was one of six major shelves remaining in Canada’s Arctic. They are packed with ancient ice that is more than 3,000 years old. They float on the sea but are connected to land.

Some scientists say it is the largest event of its kind in Canada in 30 years and that climate change was a major element.

“It is consistent with climate change,” Vincent said, adding that the remaining ice shelves are 90 percent smaller than when they were first discovered in 1906. “We aren’t able to connect all of the dots … but unusually warm temperatures definitely played a major role.”

Laurie Weir, who monitors ice conditions for the Canadian Ice Service, was poring over satellite images in 2005 when she noticed that the shelf had split and separated.

Weir notified Luke Copland, head of the new global ice lab at the University of Ottawa, who initiated an effort to find out what happened.

Using U.S. and Canadian satellite images, as well as seismic data – the event registered on earthquake monitors 250 kilometers (155 miles) away – Copland discovered that the ice shelf collapsed in the early afternoon of Aug. 13, 2005.

Copland said the speed with which climate change has effected the ice shelves has surprised scientists.

“Even 10 years ago scientists assumed that when global warming changes occur that it would happen gradually so that perhaps we expected these ice shelves just to melt away quite slowly,” he said.

Derek Mueller, a polar researcher with Vincent’s team, said the ice shelves get weaker as temperatures rise. He visited Ellesmere Island in 2002 and noticed that another ice shelf had cracked in half.

“We’re losing our ice shelves and this is a feature of the landscape that is in danger of disappearing altogether from Canada,” Mueller said.

Within days of breaking free, the Ayles Ice Shelf drifted about 30 miles (50 kilometers) offshore before freezing into the sea ice. A spring thaw may bring another concern: that warm temperatures will release the new ice island from its Arctic grip, making it an enormous hazard for ships.

“Over the next few years this ice island could drift into populated shipping routes,” Weir said.

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Natural Resources Defense Council

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Global Warming- Undo It



by Dena Ventrudo
Dena Ventrudo is the Assistant Editor of Merlian News. She is a published poet and creative writer. Dena volunteered as an environmentalist with the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) for three years serving as a project leader, an intern, and a board representative. She has a BA in Liberal Studies.