Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Disintergration: Antarctic warming claims another ice shelf

In late February 2008, the Wilkins Ice Shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula disintegrated, an indication of warming temperatures in the region.
March 26 2008 - The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) sensors on NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites provided some of the earliest evidence of the Wilkins Ice Shelf disintegration. Ted Scambos, lead scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), noticed changes in the shelf in MODIS imagery in March 2008.

Terra acquired these images on February 28 (top) and March 17 (bottom). The top image, acquired just before the breakup, shows the intact ice shelf. The bottom image, taken 18 days later, shows the remnants of the ice shelf becoming frozen in place by surrounding seawater. Whereas the intact ice shelf appears white, the disintegrated shelf appears in varying shades of pale blue indicating small pieces of water-saturated ice mixed with a newly forming veneer of sea ice.

In the March 17 image, amid the pieces of shattered shelf, large blocks of ice cluster along the northern and (especially) southern edges of the shelf. Upstream from the broken shelf, crevasses appear on what remains of the shelf, suggesting that this portion of the shelf remains vulnerable to disintegration. According to Scambos, however, the ice shelf will not likely undergo further breakup until the next Antarctic summer. “The ice has begun to re-freeze, and it’s already been snowed on,” he stated. More >>>