An iceberg two-thirds of the size of Toronto has broken away from an Antarctic ice shelf, leaving the shelf in danger of imminent collapse, scientists with the British Antarctic Survey said Tuesday.Quote has been trimmed
The berg is still moving, leaving a large part of the Wilkins Ice Shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula supported only by a thin strip of ice hanging between two islands.
Glaciologist Ted Scambos from the University of Colorado first raised the alarm over the ice shelf, and colleagues at the British Antarctic Survey recently sent a small plane on a reconnaissance mission to check out the extent of the breakaway from the shelf. They confirmed that the shelf broke away sometime over the past few days.
In 1993, Professor David Vaughan of British Antarctic Survey predicted the northern part of Wilkins Ice Shelf was likely to be lost within 30 years if climate warming on the peninsula were to continue at the same rate. Climate warming increases the volume of summer meltwater on glaciers and weakens ice shelves.
"Wilkins is the largest ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula yet to be threatened. I didn't expect to see things happen this quickly," Vaughan said in a release. "The ice shelf is hanging by a thread — we'll know in the next few days or weeks what its fate will be."