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The Wilkins Ice Shelf and Douglas Range, Antarctica

70.7S 74.9W

July 21st, 2009 Category: Climate Change

Antarctica - July 2nd, 2009

Antarctica - July 2nd, 2009

Icebergs continue to break off the Wilkins Ice Shelf near its connection to Latady Island (bottom left quadrant). The last time this area was observed (click here for previous article), the left side of the ice connecting the shelf to the island was cracking.

In this image, taken six weeks later, the ice around those cracks has splintered off entirely, leaving the edges smooth once again and adding more icebergs to those floating nearby in the open ocean.

Upon opening the full, orthorectified image the peaks of the Douglas Range on Alexander Island can be seen towards the top. These mountains are part of a sharp-crested range, with peaks rising to 3,000 metres.

The range extends 120 km (75 mi) in a northwest-southeast direction from Mount Nicholas to Mount Edred and forming a steep east escarpment of Alexander Island within the British Antarctic Territory, overlooking the north part of George VI Sound.

Loss of Ice from Wilkins Ice Shelf, Antarctica

70.7S 74.9W

May 13th, 2009 Category: Climate Change

Wilkins Ice Shelf, Antarctica - May 12th, 2009

Wilkins Ice Shelf, Antarctica - May 12th, 2009

Cracks by Latady Island

Cracks by Latady Island

Since the ice bridge connecting the Wilkins Ice Shelf (center) to Charcot Island (upper left in the full image) broke six weeks ago, the icebergs from the desintegrated shelf have been moving further away from the Antarctic Peninsula.

The ice shelf is still connected to Latady Island (lower left),  although fractures in the area have formed and widened.

According to the European Commission, researchers predict that the northern edge of the ice shelf will continue to discharge icebergs over the coming weeks, and it is expected to lose between 570 and 3,370 square kilometres of ice. This loss might be even greater if the connection to Latady Island is broken as well.

Ice Bridge in Antarctica Shatters, Wilkins Ice Shelf At Risk

April 7th, 2009 Category: Climate Change

Wilkins Ice Shelf, Antarctica - April 5th, 2009

Wilkins Ice Shelf, Antarctica - April 5th, 2009

Detail of cracking ice bridge

Detail of cracking ice bridge

On April  5th, 2009, in the waters off the Antarctic Peninsula, an ice bridge (center) connecting part of the Wilkins Ice Shelf (above) to Charcot Island (center left) shattered.

The break occurred at the thinnest point in the 40 kilometre (25 mi) long bridge, visible in this image taken on April 5th just before the collapse.

The shelf remains connected to Latady Island (bottom right), although it has been stated that this connection appears to be on the verge of rupturing as well.

While only the one section has broken away, some scientists believe that the Wilkins Ice Shelf is now only days away from completely breaking off. Researchers regarded the ice bridge as an important barrier, holding the remnant shelf structure in place. Its removal will allow ice to move more freely between Charcot and Latady islands, into the open ocean.

The breakaway is seen as firm evidence of the ongoing effects of warming. Temperatures in this region of Antarctica have risen by 2.5 degrees Celsius since the 1950s. The Wilkins Ice Shelf has been retreating since the early 1990s, and since that time scientists have been warning about the possible loss of its northern section. With regards to this most recent collapse, satellite imagery had been indicating the appearance of cracks in the bridge since last week, and newly created icebergs were seen floating in the surrounding sea.

Over the past 50 years, the Antarctic Peninsula has been one of the fastest warming places on the planet. Many of its ice shelves have retreated in that time and six of them have collapsed completely (Prince Gustav Channel, Larsen Inlet, Larsen A, Larsen B, Wordie, Muller and the Jones Ice Shelf).

Wilkins Ice Shelf and surroundings, Antarctica

December 26th, 2008 Category: Snapshots

Wilkins Ice Shelf and surroundings, Antartica - December 13th, 2008

Wilkins Ice Shelf and surroundings, Antartica - December 13th, 2008

Close-up of Latady Island

Close-up of Latady Island

Arm of ice connecting Charcot Island and Alexander Island

Detail of Ice Bridge

The Wilkins Ice Shelf connects several islands in Wilkins Sound, Antartica, including Alexander Island (right), Latady Island (bottom) and Charcot Island (left).

Latady Island is a low ice-covered island, 35 miles long and more than 10 miles wide, with an area of 3,300 km². It lies 45 miles south of Charcot Island and west of Alexander Island.

Alexander Island, Antartica’s largest, is connected to Charcot Island, a nunatak, by an arm of ice. Many icebergs can be seen breaking off the sides of the island, particularly above the arm.

Close-up of peninsula and Sofia University Mountains

Close-up of island

To compare the position and size of these icebergs to an image from an earlier date, please click here.

Finally, a small island is visible to the North, just below the Sofia University Mountains, a cluster of four small mountains in north-western Alexander Island, 21 km long in the northeast-southwest direction and 13 km wide.

Icebergs from Wilkins Ice Shelf Float Past Latady Island

70.7S 74.9W

May 20th, 2009 Category: Climate Change

Wilkins Ice Shelf, Antarctica - May 18th, 2009

Wilkins Ice Shelf, Antarctica - May 18th, 2009

Cracks by Latady Island

Cracks by Latady Island

Icebergs from the desintegrated Wilkins Ice Shelf continue to break away from the Antarctic Peninsula and move into the open ocean.

These icebergs were previously contained by an ice bridge reaching Charcot Island (partially visible, far left), until it shattered about seven weeks ago.

In the full image, the icebergs can be seen floating off in all directions. Many can be observed left of Latady Island (bottom), others towards Rothschild Island (top).

The ice shelf and Latady Island remain connected, however fractures near the border continue to widen.