The Wilkins Ice Shelf is located along the western coastline of Antarctica. First discovered in 1910, it was named for Sir Hubert Wilkins. It is a massive ice shelf, and it could be gone forever very soon. Since 1993, it has been predicted that the northern part of the ice shelf could be lost within 30 years due to climate change. That would have had the ice shelf breaking away in about 2023, or 14 years from now. Sadly, as with so many things with global warming, those estimates were far too conservative.
Last year, on March 25, a 405 square kilometer piece of the ice shelf fell off. What worried scientists more was that the rest of the 14,000 square kilometer ice shelf was beginning to also break away. By May, another break off happened, and by November another 2,000 square kilometers were lost.
It seems that a mere 16 years after the original prediction, the Wilkins Ice Shelf is ready to fall off for good, showing just how fast global warming is progressing on the planet.
On January 20, 2009, Reuters reported that the ice shelf will probably collapse within a few months, or even weeks, since the entire shelf is being held up by just a thin strip of ice ranging in thickness from two kilometers to 500 meters. When, not if, this piece breaks off over the next year, it will release an ice shelf into the ocean the size of Connecticut
The reason that the melting is progressing so quickly is because of the global warming feedback loops. As the ice melts on Earth, less heat is reflected back into space, thereby increasing the temperature of the planet, which then melts more ice and keeps the loop going. Recently, a plane from the British Antarctic Survey landed on the ice shelf, and many believe that will be the last plane to ever land there.
Slowly, the Arctic and Antarctica is having its ice chipped away, and slowly, our world’s oceans are rising and the world temperatures are increasing. This is a disturbing turn of events. It is happening half as soon as was predicted, and it is only, pardon the pun, the tip of the iceberg.