Archive for the 'Wilkins ice shelf' Category

Apr 02 2008

PENGUINS: WE ARE NEW ORLEANS

Our home is cracking apart around us.


Some of the Antarctic ice shelf just broke off. How big? For those of you Americans who have ventured to the city that calls itself the Greatest City in the world, it is 9x the size of Manhattan. And sticking with American examples, the Wilkins Ice Shelf itself is about the size of Connecticut.


According to CNN,“British scientist David Vaughan says it’s the result of global warming.”


The rest of the Connecticut-sized ice shelf is holding on by a narrow beam of thin ice and scientists worry that it too may collapse. Larger, more dramatic ice collapses occurred in 2002 and 1995.”


Glaciologist Ted Scambos at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, CO was studying satellite data. He let Professor David Vaughan and Andrew Fleming of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) know that the ice shelf was at risk. Luckily, a crew from BAS photographed the process from aboard a Twin Otter plane. Thanks to them you, too, can see what is happening:


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According to the Christian Science Monitor:

“the region has seen unprecedented rates of warming during the past 50 years. Two of the 10 shelves along the peninsula have vanished within the past 30 years. Another five have lost between 60 percent and 92 percent of their original extent. Of the 10, Wilkins is the southernmost shelf in the area to start buckling under global warming’s effects.


‘Wilkins is a stepping stone in a larger process,’ says Scambos. ‘It’s really a story of what’s yet to come if the mainland of Antarctica begins to warm.’”



That is what happening to the ice. And things aren’t so hot when it comes to food.


The UK Observer published this article by Juliette Jowitt:

“The Antarctic, one of the planet’s last unspoilt ecosystems, is under threat from mankind’s insatiable appetite for harvesting the seas.


The population of krill, a tiny crustacean, is in danger from the growing demand for health supplements and food for fish farms. Global warming has already been blamed for a dramatic fall in numbers because the ice that is home to the algae and plankton they feed on is melting. Now ‘suction’ harvesting which gathers up vast quantities has been introduced to meet the increased demand. It threatens not just krill, but the entire ecosystem that depends on them, say environmental campaigners.


Krill are also believed to be important in removing the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide by eating carbon-rich food near the surface and excreting it when they sink to lower, colder water to escape predators.


‘Whales, penguins, seals, albatrosses and petrels – all those creatures we think are absolute icons of Antarctica – depend on krill,’ said Richard Page, a marine reserves expert with Greenpeace International.



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Photo: Corbis


We watched as New Orleans was swallowed by the sea. Penguins: we are New Orleans.





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