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19-square-mile ice sheet breaks loose in Canada

Associated Press

Details recent losses in Arctic Sea ice

  • A 4,500 year old Arctic Ice Shelf nearly the size of Manhattan broke off in early August - the Markham Ice Shelf.
  • Two large sections of ice have also detached from the Serson Ice Shelf, shrinking it by 60%.
  • Ward Hunt Ice Shelf has lost an additional 8 square miles of ice.
  • Rare ecosystems relying on the ice shelves are on the brink of extinction, and warming temperatures and climate change mean there is no hope for regrowth.

Associated Press

19-square-mile ice sheet breaks loose in Canada
By Charmaine Noronha
September 3, 2008

TORONTO - A chunk of ice shelf nearly the size of Manhattan has broken away from Ellesmere Island in Canada's northern Arctic, another dramatic indication of how warmer temperatures are changing the polar frontier, scientists said Wednesday.

Derek Mueller, an Arctic ice shelf specialist at Trent University in Ontario, told The Associated Press that the 4,500-year-old Markham Ice Shelf separated in early August and the 19-square-mile shelf is now adrift in the Arctic Ocean.

"The Markham Ice Shelf was a big surprise because it suddenly disappeared. We went under cloud for a bit during our research and when the weather cleared up, all of a sudden there was no more ice shelf. It was a shocking event that underscores the rapidity of changes taking place in the Arctic," said Mueller.

Mueller also said that two large sections of ice detached from the Serson Ice Shelf, shrinking that ice feature by 47 square miles — or 60 percent — and that the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf has also continued to break up, losing an additional eight square miles.

Mueller reported last month that seven square miles of the 170-square-mile and 130-feet-thick Ward Hunt shelf had broken off.This comes on the heels of unusual cracks in a northern Greenland glacier, rapid melting of a southern Greenland glacier, and a near record loss for Arctic sea ice this summer. And earlier this year a 160-square mile chunk of an Antarctic ice shelf disintegrated.

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