NYC-sized ice shelf collapses in East Antarctica

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An ice shelf the size of New York City has collapsed in East Antarctica, according to scientists.

The collapse was captured by satellite images, which show the area had been shrinking over the last couple of years.

It was the first time in human history that the region had an ice shelf collapse and experts wondered Friday if they had been overestimating its stability.

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Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute ice scientist Catherine Walker told The Associated Press that the shelf, which spans about 460 square miles and holds in the Conger and Glenzer glaciers, collapsed between March 14 and 16.

The US National Ice Center (USNIC) confirmed on March 8 that iceberg C-37 had calved from the remnants of the Glenzer Ice Shelf.

On March 17, it said in a release that an iceberg named C-38 broke off from the shelf – and that it had calved into two new icebergs on Monday.

Experts had been watching the shelf continuously shrink since the 1970s, before ice loss hastened in 2020.

This satellite image provided by NASA, Terra MODIS 8 on March 2022 shows the original extent of C-37 through cloud next to Bowman Island. Scientists are concerned because an ice shelf is the size of New York City collapsed in East Antarctica, an area that had long been thought to be stable. The collapse last week was the first time scientists have ever seen an ice shelf collapse in this cold area of ​​Antarctica.
(NASA via AP)

Notably, the collapse process occurred at the start of a disturbing warm spell last week.

In parts of Antarctica, temperatures soared by more than 70 degrees warmer than average and areas of the Arctic rose by more than 50 degrees

An atmospheric river was likely the cause and Australia’s Casey Station – the nearest station to the ice shelf – hit 42 degrees, or about 18 degrees warmer than is normal.

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The Coastal Terra Nova Base was far above freezing, at 44.6 degrees.

The Antarctic warming was first reported by The Washington Post.

As a whole, the Antarctic continent was about 8.6 degrees warmer than a baseline temperature between 1979 and 2000, according to the University of Maine’s Climate Reanalyzer, based on US National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration weather models.

This satellite image provided by NASA, Aqua MODIS 21 on March 2022 shows the two pieces of C-38 (A and B icebergs) next to the main piece of C-37 at the top.

This satellite image provided by NASA, Aqua MODIS 21 on March 2022 shows the two pieces of C-38 (A and B icebergs) next to the main piece of C-37 at the top.
(NASA via AP)

The Arctic was 6 degrees warmer than the 1979 to 2000 average.

By comparison, the world was only 1.1 degrees above that same average.

The southern continent has not been warming much and Colorado’s National Snow and Ice Data Center reported it set a record for the lowest summer sea ice, with it shrinking to 741,000 square miles in late February.

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The Arctic has been warming two to three times faster than everywhere else and is considered vulnerable to climate change.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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