The Milne Ice Shelf, the largest remaining intact ice shelf in Canada, has collapsed. According to researchers studying the Milne Ice Shelf, the ice shelf collapsed in just two days at the end of July and lost about 40% of its area. This ice shelf sits at the fringe of Ellesmere Island in the northern territory of Nunavut.
For the past 30 years, the Arctic has warmed twice as fast as the global rate. The Arctic’s warming reached new levels this year, causing polar ice to hit its lowest levels in 40 years. Though ice caps melting in the heat has become more frequent, this year’s record temperatures caused unprecedented melting and disintegration of bigger ice shelves.
“Above normal air temperatures, offshore winds and open water in front of the ice shelf are all part of the recipe for ice shelf break up,” The Canadian Ice Service said on Twitter.
The area affected by the ice shelf breaking is significantly large. According to researchers, the shelf area shrank by 80 square kilometers — an area roughly 20 square kilometers larger than New York’s Manhattan Island.
“This was the largest remaining intact ice shelf, and it’s disintegrated, basically,” said Luke Copland, a glaciologist at the University of Ottawa and Milne Ice Shelf researcher.
The research team lost a campsite and several instruments when the ice shelf collapsed. According to one of the researchers, Derek Mueller of Carleton University in Ottawa, the team has noticed signs of collapse while working on the ice shelf. Mueller says the team was lucky to not be on the ice shelf when it collapsed. Given that the collapse swept away an entire campsite, the team would have faced a similar fate.
Researchers now warn that the Arctic can expect more ice melting if global temperatures continue to increase. This year, the Arctic experienced temperatures rising 5 degrees Celcius above the 30-year average. If global warming continues, Arctic ice could melt entirely into the sea over time.
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