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Wilkins Ice Shelf lost its footing

The narrow strip of ice which connected the Wilkins ice shelf with a small island off the southwestern Antarctic Peninsula has finally collapsed, threatening to speed up the disintegration of the 11,000 square kilometres-large shelf.

Scientists had expected the break up. A partial collapse of the ice sheet last year had already thinned and twisted the natural ice bridge which connected the Wilkins ice shelf with Charcot Island, providing stability. On 1 April scientists monitoring satellite images of the region first noticed that rifts had occurred in the Manhattan-sized strip of ice. On 4 April it broke into pieces.


Satellite image: Terra SAR-X ScanSAR, 5 April 2009 © DLR, 2009

(Charcot Island is to the left. The island at the bottom right is Latady Island. Behind the broken ice bridge are icebergs from the June/July 2008 break up)

The collapse could accelerate erosion of the Wilkins ice sheet, which is located in one of the most rapidly warming regions of Antarctica. Its demise threatens to speed up the flow of continental glaciers to the coast, with implications for global sea level rise.

Quirin Schiermeier


  1. Report this comment

    Hank Roberts said:

    > lost its footing

    Does the word “footing” in the headline refer to something left out of the article? I’d been wondering if that narrow point was also a shallow point, from looking at the pattern of cracking.

    Is there any information about the seabed under the ice you can point to?

  2. Report this comment

    Not fooled said:

    Guess what folks. Every year, the ice in Antarctic grows in the winter. But alarmists focus on when it “warms” and “breaks up”. Ever see a snow bank melt in the spring, even though it below freezing? Did you also notice chunks of ice and snow tumble down when the ice below is disturbed(ie-kicked out by a foot, better known on coastlines as wave action)

    BTW-We’ve been cooling since at least 2002, do your research by not looking at the alarmists news.

  3. Report this comment

    marita said:

    We have been here before with the collapse Of Prince Gustav Ice Shelf….

    This is what appeared in the popular press then as the usual suspects reported breathlessly “Rapid warming has led to the loss of seven ice shelves during the past 50 years."

    However in their paper the authors also state that, “sediment cores reveal that from 6000 to 1900 years ago, the Prince Gustav Channel ice shelf which recently collapsed was absent and climate was as warm as it has been recently." This did not appear in the popular press!

    I suspect that this will bwe true of the Wilkins Ice Shelf

    Organisme Decredit



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