"Climate Change Melts Antarctic Ice Shelves: USGS"

"Climate change is melting the floating ice shelves along the Antarctic Peninsula, giving scientists a preview of what could happen if other ice shelves around the southern continent disappear, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said on Monday.

The ice has retreated so far from the land mass that Charcot Island, which has long been connected to the peninsula by an ice bridge, emerged as a real island again last year, a USGS scientist said.

'This is the first time since people have been observing the area, since the 1800s, that that ice shelf has not hitched together Charcot Island and the peninsula,' scientist Jane Ferrigno said in a telephone interview.

The Antarctic Peninsula extends further northward than the rest of the roughly circular ice-covered continent, and it is warmer than the rest of Antarctica. But even in the peninsula's coldest, southern part, ice shelves are vanishing.

Research by the USGS was the first to show that every ice front on the southern section of the peninsula has been retreating from 1947 to 2009, with the most dramatic changes since 1990."

Deborah Zabarenko reports for Reuters February 23, 2010.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010