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Huge Arctic ice shelf breaks away

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 12:28 AM GMT on December 31, 2006

A huge ice shelf 25% larger than the island of Manhattan broke off of Canada's Arctic coast in 2005, according to a press release issued Thursday by researchers at the University of Ottawa's Laboratory for Cryospheric Research. The Ayles Ice Shelf, located on the northern coast of Ellesmere Island, was about 66 square kilometers in area and 100 feet thick. The ice shelf has drifted about 50 km, and is now a big iceberg about 800 km south of the North Pole. It is expected to slowly melt over the next few years and drift into the Beaufort Sea, where it may pose a threat to shipping and oil and gas developments. Melt water from the giant new iceberg will not contribute significantly to sea level rise, since it was already floating on the ocean surface (think how ice cubes floating in a cup of water do not raise the level of the water after they melt). A slight sea level rise will occur, because the melting fresh water will displace denser salty ocean water. The addition of the ice shelf's fresh water to the Arctic Ocean will not freshen the ocean detectably, since the ice shelf will melt slowly and is a relatively small chunk of ice in a huge ocean.


Figure 1. October 21, 2003 image of the northern coast of Canada's Ellesmere Island, showing the location of the Ward Hunt Ice Sheet, which broke up in 200-2003, and the Ayles Ice Sheet, which broke away in August 2005. Image credit: NASA.


Figure 2. NASA Modis satellite image from August 13, 2005, showing the Ayles Ice Shelf detaching from Ellesmere Island.

The Ayles Ice Shelf actually broke off on August 13, 2005, and created tremors strong enough to be detected by seismographs 250 km away. The break off was not announced until researchers had time to study the event. The ice shelf was one of six large ice shelves remaining in the Canadian Arctic. The region's largest ice shelf, the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf, broke up in 2000-2003. In both cases, the warming of the average air temperature by 1.8 �C in the past 40 years is thought to be the cause. Unusually warm temperatures in 2005 proved to be the final blow to the ice sheet. The hot summer of 2005 led to the greatest loss of Arctic ice ever observed--about a 20% decrease over the levels observed in 1979, when reliable record keeping began. The ice shelves along the northern coast of Ellesmere Island have thinned 90% since they were discovered in 1906 by polar explorer Robert Peary.

While much of the past warming of the Arctic can be attributed to natural causes, a significant and growing portion of the warming is thought to be due to human-caused climate change, according to the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA), a 2004 study compiled by 300 expert Arctic scientists. Considering that radiocarbon dating of driftwood on the Ayles Ice Shelf puts its age at 3,000 years old, I think it is very unlikely that the shelf would have collapsed without the aid of warming from greenhouse gases emitted by humans. The Arctic is expected to warm another 2-4 �C by the end of the century, which should permanently destroy all the remaining ice shelves in the Arctic. These ice shelves hold a rare and unique ecosystem of cold-adapted organisms, and their loss will mean something irreplaceable and fascinating will be forever lost.

I'll have much more to say on what's going on in the Arctic in early 2007. Have a Happy New Year, everyone! My resolution will be to appreciate all that I have, and all the beauty and diversity the world has to offer. Much that is unique and beautiful on Earth will be lost to future generations. It's up to us to appreciate these things now--and work to save what we can, without crippling civilization in the process.

Jeff Masters


The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

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Viewing: 301 - 251

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301. Thunderstorm2
4:56 PM GMT on January 01, 2007
I went to bed at about 2am watching DVDs and TV with my wife
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
300. hurricane23
4:54 PM GMT on January 01, 2007
I ended going to bed around 3am watching vids on MTV2 and watching 2 movies with wifie.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
299. Thunderstorm2
4:51 PM GMT on January 01, 2007
everyone have a good time last night?
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298. Wishcasterboy
4:50 PM GMT on January 01, 2007
Boom shakalaka boom shakalaka boom!!
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
297. oakland
4:50 PM GMT on January 01, 2007
Happy New Year to everyone.
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296. hurricane23
4:49 PM GMT on January 01, 2007
Happy New Year
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
295. Thunderstorm2
4:47 PM GMT on January 01, 2007
Clovis is looking good
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
294. Patrap
4:43 PM GMT on January 01, 2007
7
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293. Thunderstorm2
4:31 PM GMT on January 01, 2007
Hello Everyone!!!
Happy New Year
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
292. hurricane23
4:21 PM GMT on January 01, 2007
Just taking a look at Clovis this morning and its really improved organization wise with convection more symetrical and developing an impressive CDO.NRL has winds currently at 60kts and futher intensification to 90kts is in the forcast before making landfall. Happpy New Year!

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
291. weatherboykris
3:27 PM GMT on January 01, 2007
Happy new year.
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290. Wishcasterboy
2:53 PM GMT on January 01, 2007


The night before this picture was taken the temperature was 63 degrees with wind gusts over 70mph. The temperature didn't get cold enough to snow until after school. The snow you see in this picture is from a very rare thundersnow.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
288. Patrap
2:24 PM GMT on January 01, 2007
Lite Fuse..GET AWAY!
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287. Wishcasterboy
2:23 PM GMT on January 01, 2007
Alas there will not be much posting on my part today, I will pop in when things get chattery.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
286. Wishcasterboy
2:10 PM GMT on January 01, 2007
Mama, my arm feels tingley.
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285. Wishcasterboy
2:08 PM GMT on January 01, 2007
We've got blood boilers going back as far as the eye can see in my family, both sides infact. So I guess that makes me a runner up or something!
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
284. Wishcasterboy
2:03 PM GMT on January 01, 2007
LOL, Pat!
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283. palmettobug53
2:02 PM GMT on January 01, 2007
Happy 2007, Dr. M! Hoping we have another mild 'cane season this year. (Well, we can always hope, can't we? LOL)

Thanks again, to you and the rest of Admin, for your blogs, information and hard work in 2006.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
282. Patrap
2:01 PM GMT on January 01, 2007
Those of us OVER 35..created Blood Pressure..LOL!
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281. Wishcasterboy
1:59 PM GMT on January 01, 2007

Something for the young rockers on this blog.

WARNING.. Anyone over the age of 35 should not view this video, for it may cause an unsafe rise in blood pressure.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
280. Wishcasterboy
1:52 PM GMT on January 01, 2007
Got to to my cabin in North Georgia my wife and kids await!!See ya'll later!!!

You will be sincerely missed Cyclone- I think?
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
279. Patrap
1:49 PM GMT on January 01, 2007
All is quiet ..on New years Day!...
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
276. Wishcasterboy
1:38 PM GMT on January 01, 2007
Ahhhh!, w-was that the ghost of a Cajun I heard??
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
275. Patrap
1:33 PM GMT on January 01, 2007
NO!..LOL
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274. Wishcasterboy
1:30 PM GMT on January 01, 2007
Morning blog, is there anyone up and about?
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
272. Gatorgrrrl
9:51 AM GMT on January 01, 2007
Happy New Year Dr. Masters.
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271. Wishcasterboy
5:40 AM GMT on January 01, 2007
This is Mikey wishing you all a non-alcoholic Christmas ev.....................wait......huh? oh oh yeah I remember! Wishing you all a safe New Years Day, and for Gods sake don't drive hammered! I mean come on people, your children depend on you so don't let them down. Yeah, and what about how Mama would feel. For peets sake she went through the trouble of raising yall. The least you could do is survive the Holidays. You've made it this far so why stop now? Come on people think with your heads, sheesh!

Happy New Years!
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
270. Tazmanian2007
5:21 AM GMT on January 01, 2007
happy new year
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
267. Caffinehog
4:10 AM GMT on January 01, 2007
By the way...
Louisiana has been living on borrowed time for deceades. Without the army corps of engineers, New Orleans would already be gone.
Link
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
266. N3EG
3:30 AM GMT on January 01, 2007
Another factor blamed in the disintegration of the ice shelf...full story here.
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265. HIEXPRESS
3:23 AM GMT on January 01, 2007
Happy new year all.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
264. LowerCal
2:44 AM GMT on January 01, 2007
... which will destroy Cuba ... and completely destroy Florida and Louisiana as a side effect. Yep, definitely has GW's stamp on it. ;-)
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263. Caffinehog
2:17 AM GMT on January 01, 2007
BTW... for those who wonder... I like to alternate back and forth between thoughtful and absurd.

Now back to your regularly schedjeweled blogforums.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
262. Caffinehog
2:07 AM GMT on January 01, 2007
Many scientists think the point of no return has been crossed. Global warming is inevitable. We should start planning now. How do we accomodate the refugees? How do we relocate them? Where do we grow crops now that the climate is changing? How do we provide infrastructure to areas that will now become productive? How much time and money do we spend on infrastructure that will soon become useless? How can we make use of the new shallow seas that form? How do we save endangered ecosystems... or how can we move them to a climate in which they will thrive? And if we've crossed the point of no return, is there any reason to stop using fossil fuels and clearing forests?
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
261. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
1:52 AM GMT on January 01, 2007
Area of Responsibility
=========================
Perth Bureau of Metoerological

Region: Northwest Australia

Current Storm Status
===========================
Tropical Low 01U
11.2S 115.7E -- 25 knots 1002 hpa

Warnings Advisory
==========
Tropical Low System 01 has sustained winds of 25 knots with wind gusts of 45 knots.

location is approx 573 nm north-northwest of Port Hedland and is reported as stationary

Tropical Cyclone Watch in Effect for Karratha, Port Hedland, Paroo, Wallal, and Mardle in Northwest Australia.

next tropical warning from Perth is at 7am UTC
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
260. Caffinehog
1:42 AM GMT on January 01, 2007
OK, so this is all a right wing conspiracy. Since the embargo didn't destroy Cuba, we're pumping CO2 into the atmosphere, which will destroy Cuba.

All of this proves, once and for all, that George Bush is evil.
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252. charlestonlady
9:38 PM GMT on December 31, 2006
Hi michael!

TN is looking pretty good!
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251. Thunderstorm2
7:59 PM GMT on December 31, 2006
one of the rare tornados in ireland struck today
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Cat 6 lead authors: WU cofounder Dr. Jeff Masters (right), who flew w/NOAA Hurricane Hunters 1986-1990, & WU meteorologist Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

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