You keep me hangin’ on

wilkins26nov480.jpg According to Alister Doyle, Reuters’ man in Antarctica (now that’s a job I’d like to try…), what’s left of the Wilkins Ice Shelf is on “the brink of collapse with just a sliver of ice holding it in place“. Earlier this week, Doyle reported on a trip with the British Antarctic Survey to the remnants of the ice shelf:

“We’ve come to the Wilkins Ice Shelf to see its final death throes,” David Vaughan, a glaciologist at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), told Reuters after the first — and probably last — plane landed near the narrowest part of the ice. […]

BAS scientists and two Reuters reporters stayed about an hour on the shelf at a point about 2 km wide.

“It’s very unlikely that our presence here is enough to initiate any cracks,” Vaughan said. “But it is likely to happen fairly soon, weeks to months, and I don’t want to be here when it does.”

The Dominion Post‘s Paul Easton picked up the report, and managed to turn it into a story about sea level rise. Rather odd, because Doyle explicity notes:

Loss of ice shelves does not raise sea levels significantly because the ice is floating and already mostly submerged by the ocean. But the big worry is that their loss will allow ice sheets on land to move faster, adding extra water to the seas. Wilkins has almost no pent-up glaciers behind it. But ice shelves further south hold back vast volumes of ice. “When those are removed the glaciers will flow faster,” Vaughan said.

Unfortunately for us all, the most recent research suggests that the West Antarctic is warming significantly, as this image from the cover of this week’s Nature demonstrates rather well:

(E Steig/NASA)

See also: Guardian (UK) on Steig et al, Reuters on summer rain on the Antarctic Peninsula and the clear air down there, and a Danish researcher finds yet another reason to project that sea level rise this century will exceed IPCC estimates. More on land ice and the Arctic next week.

[The Supremes]

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