Oops, there goes a huge chunk of ice splattering on the shores of Antarctica, the world’s frozen butt.
Don’t worry, don’t worry – the huge ice continent is not about to melt completely to raise sea levels around the world to “Waterworld” heights.
So, you can safely get down from your roof now. And, no, there’s no need to consider living in a “Yellow Submarine” even if you’re a Beatles fan.
On Tuesday, March 25, 2008, British scientists revealed that chunk of Antarctic ice about the size of Scotland suddenly collapsed, putting an even greater portion of glacial ice at risk.
The 160-square-mile chunk of ice in western Antarctica started breaking last Feb. 28. The part that eventually broke free last Tuesday was the edge of the Wilkins ice shelf and has been there for hundreds, perhaps even more than a thousand years.
It’s easy to guess the culprit: Global warming of course (No, not global bulging, although that, too, could break off the Antarctic ice if all the world’s fatsos go there and put their weight around).
British Antarctic Survey scientist David Vaughan said although it’s natural for icebergs to break away from the mainland from time to time, last Tuesday’s ice disintegration was unusual. Vaughan said the collapse is similar to what happens to hardened glass when it is smashed with a hammer.
The rest of the Wilkins ice shelf is holding on by a narrow beam of thin ice and scientists fear that it too may collapse.
Vaughan had predicted the Wilkins shelf would collapse about 15 years from now. The part that recently gave way makes up about 4 percent of the overall shelf, but it’s an important part that can trigger further collapse, he said.
There’s still a chance the rest of the ice shelf will survive until next year because this is the end of the Antarctic summer and colder weather is setting in, he added.
Scientists said right now they are not concerned about a rise in sea level from the latest event, but say it’s a sign of worsening global warming.
Such occurrences are “more indicative of a tipping point or trigger in the climate system,” said Sarah Das, a scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.
“These are things that are not re-forming,” Das said. “So once they’re gone, they’re gone.”
Well, at least Santa Claus can still make Snowman at the top of the world in the Arctic – if the ice there would hold just a little bit longer.
The satellite photo above was released by the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder. It shows the Wilkins Ice Shelf on March 6, 2008 on the Southwest Antarctic Peninsula as it begins to break apart. (AP Photo/ National Snow and Ice Data Center, NASA)