Climate Decade in Review - Post 16: Wilkins Ice Shelf Partially Collapses

March 28, 2008 - a 156 square mile part of The Wilkins Ice Shelf along the Antarctic Peninsula disintegrates (photo is a close-up of the ice after the break up).

The Wilkins Ice Shelf lies along the Antarctic Peninsula and is about the size of the island of Jamaica. Increasing temperatures worldwide are increasing more rapidly at the poles, where they are having significant affects on polar ice. In this case, the Wilkins Ice Shelf lost a significant portion of itself on this date in the climate decade. It is virtually certain that most of the rest of it will disintegrate in the next decade.

In this case, the actual collapse of the ice sheet will have little or no effect on sea levels. That is because the ice shelf was already floating. Floating ice that melts does not raise sea levels in the same way that an ice cube melting in a glass does not raise the level of water in the class. Land-based ice that melts does raise sea level, because it is like adding water to the glass.

The other way ice shelves lead to sea level rise is if they were holding back glaciers. In the case of Wilkins, that is not the case either.

Nonetheless, the ongoing disintegration of the Wilkins Ice Shelf and other polar ice at both poles is a constant reminder of the significant effect global warming is having on our environment.
This is one in the series of "Climate Decade in Review" posts on this blog that began in January 2010. These posts present climate-change-related events that occurred during the 00's, the warmest decade in recorded history.

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