The climate of the future
Ice Shelves are large extensions of continental ice which acts as a barrier between the ice on the land, and the ocean. They are critical in supporting the ice on land from flowing into the sea. However, rising temperatures are causing irreversible changes to these icy features.
Larsen B Ice Shelf
“In 2002, the Larsen B ice shelf broke away from the Antarctic Peninsula. Five hundred billion tonnes of ice floated off into the sea, breaking up into thousands of icebergs. This collapse dumped more ice into the Southern Ocean than all the icebergs over the previous fifty years put together. Elsewhere, satellite images have revealed that the West Antarctic ice sheet is thinning and may even collapse in the future.
Many scientists believe that the thinning ice is a sign of global warming. In the last fifty years the Antarctic Peninsula has warmed by 2.50°C, faster than anywhere else on Earth, and temperatures are now at their highest for 1,800 years.
The collapse of ice shelves like Larsen B may have a knock-on effect on the glaciers that flow from Antarctica’s ice sheets. A team working for the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) studied hundreds of aerial and satellite images of the Antarctic Peninsula dating back to the 1940s. Scientists are very worried at how quickly this has happened, and some say it is a wake-up call to the world to do something.”
The cinemagraph below shows the collapse of the Larsen B ice shelf in 2002. The unusually rapid disintegration occurred due to a series of warm summers on the Antarctic Peninsula, warm ocean temperatures in the Weddell Sea, and fracturing from surface melt ponds.