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Canada's last intact Arctic ice shelf has collapsed

Canada's last intact Arctic ice shelf has collapsed

Canada's last fully intact ice shelf has collapsed into the Arctic Ocean. It took just a couple of days for the shelf to lose nearly half its area, scientists said Friday, sending large islands of ice into the ocean.

The 4,000-year-old Milne Ice Shelf, located on the edge of Ellesmere Island in the northern Nunavut Territory, collapsed late last month, the researchers announced this week. He lost 43% of his area in just two days.

"Above-normal air temperatures, offshore winds and the open ocean off the ice shelf are part of the recipe for ice shelf rupture," said the Canadian Ice Service.

"This drastic decline in ice shelves is clearly related to climate change," said Luke Copland, a glaciologist at the University of Ottawa, in a statement, adding: "This summer has been up to 5 ° C warmer than average for the period from 1981 to 2010, and the region has been warming at a rate two to three times higher than the global one. Milne and other ice shelves in Canada are simply not viable any longer and will disappear in the coming decades. "

A chunk of ice of about 80 square kilometers broke off the shelf, about 20 square kilometers larger than Manhattan in New York. Due to the pandemic, scientists were not in the field studying the platform when it gave birth, but rather observing it through satellite images.

"It is fortunate that we were not on the ice shelf when this happened, our camping area and instruments were destroyed in this event," researcher Derek Mueller of Carleton University in Ottawa said Thursday.

More recently, Ellesmere Island experienced major ice shelf rupture events in 2003, 2005, 2008, 2011, and 2012. The Milne Ice Shelf was considered less vulnerable to ruptures due to the protection of the Milne Fjord, But scientists say it has sustained numerous fractures in the last 12 years, so "it was only a matter of time."

The Arctic is known to be warming at an accelerating rate, but temperatures this year have been more severe, even reaching new records in Siberia.

High temperatures have threatened the smallest ice caps that are not large enough to keep cool. Also this week, two 5,000-year-old polar ice caps in Canada completely melted, two years earlier than scientists predicted.


The collapse of the Milne Ice Shelf in a combination of satellite images taken from July 30 to August 4, 2020, over Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, Canada. ECCC / ESA Copernicus / Prospectus via REUTERS

The melting of Arctic sea ice has dire consequences. Melting ice not only sometimes leads to rising sea levels, it also poses a major threat to endangered species, including polar bears, which depend on ice for their habitat.

"The Arctic is warming at 3 times the world average due to human-caused climate change and as a result, the Arctic landscape is changing at an astonishing rate," said CBS News meteorologist and climate specialist Jeff Berardelli. "We are running out of time to limit the damage of climate change."

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