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What the Future Looks Like

The Wilkins ice shelf, in Antarctica, is collapsing.

This break-up is puzzling to scientists because it has occurred in the Southern Hemispheric winter and does not have characteristics similar to two earlier events that occurred in 2008, which were comparable to the break-up of the Larsen-A and -B ice shelves.

"The scale of rifting in the newly-removed areas seems larger, and the pieces are moving out as large bergs and not toppled, finely-divided ice melange," said Ted Scambos from the National Snow and Ice Data Center who uses ASAR images to track the area.

"The persistently low sea ice cover in the area and data from some interesting sources, electronic seal hats [caps worn by seals that provide temperature, depth and position data] seems to suggest that warm water beneath the halocline may be reaching the underside of the Wilkins Ice Shelf and thinning it rapidly - and perhaps reaching the surface, or at least mixing with surface waters."

It's a floating ice shelf, so it won't raise ocean levels when it goes, but it's another startling indicator of environmental stress.


And, on the other hemisphere, Twenty Russian scientists are to be evacuated from their camp on a drifting ice-floe in the Arctic after it started disintegrating sooner than expected.

"The Russians had set up research station "North Pole 35" on the floe last September when it measured a safe five kilometres long and three kilometres wide [. . .] the scientists now find that their temporary home has shrunk to just 600m by 300m."



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