Giant chunks break off Canadian ice shelf

Tue Jul 29, 2008 1:27pm EDT
 
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Giant sheets of ice totaling almost eight square miles broke off an ice shelf in the Canadian Arctic last week and more could follow later this year, scientists said on Tuesday.

Temperatures in large parts of the Arctic have risen far faster than the global average in recent decades, a development that experts say is linked to global warming.

The ice broke away from the shelf on Ward Hunt Island, an small island just off giant Ellesmere Island in one of the northernmost parts of Canada.

It was the largest fracture of its kind since the nearby Ayles ice shelf -- which measured 25 square miles -- broke away in 2005.

Scientists had already identified deep cracks in the Ward Hunt shelf, which measures around 155 square miles. The shelf is one of five along Ellesmere Island in the northern Arctic.

"Because the break-off occurred between two large parallel cracks they're thinking more could go this summer before the freeze sets in," said Trudy Wohlleben of the Canadian Ice Service.

Asked to be more specific, she told Reuters: "More could be a piece as large as the Ayles ice shelf."

Ellesmere Island was once home to a single enormous ice shelf totaling around 3,500 square miles. All that is left of that shelf today are five much smaller shelves that together cover just under 400 square miles.   Continued...

 
<p>A 2006 satellite image of the Ward Hunt ice shelf in the Canadian Arctic. Giant sheets of ice totaling almost eight square miles broke off the ice shelf last week and more could follow later this year, scientists said on Tuesday. REUTERS/Jacques Descloitres, MODIS Rapid Response Team, NASA/GSFC/Handout</p>