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Canada’s Last Fully Intact Arctic Ice Shelf Has Collapsed

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Aug 10, 2020

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Image Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images/AFP

The last intact Arctic ice shelf in Canada, Milne Ice Shelf, has now collapsed into the Arctic Ocean — sending a large chunk of “ice island” into the water.

The 4,000-year-old ice shelf lost 43 percent of its area within a span of just two days. The chunk that broke off measures 80 square kilometres. “Entire cities are that size. These are big pieces of ice,” Luke Copland, University Research Chair in Glaciology at the University of Ottawa, told Reuters. According to the Canadian Ice Service, “above normal air temperatures, offshore winds and open water in front of the ice shelf are all part of the recipe for ice shelf break up.”

“This drastic decline in ice shelves is clearly related to climate change. This summer has been up to 5°C warmer than the average over the period from 1981 to 2010, and the region has been warming at two to three times the global rate,” Copland commented on the collapse, adding that ice shelves in Canada will inevitably “disappear in the coming decades.” Their disappearance can have far-reaching impacts on the environment, such as rising sea-levels, and threat to animal species like polar bears that depend on ice for their sustenance.


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When the ice shelf disintegrated and floated away into the ocean, the research camp that was built on top of it was reportedly wrecked. Due to the ongoing pandemic, fortunately, the site was deserted. “It is lucky that we were not on the ice shelf when this happened, our camp area and instruments were all destroyed in this event,” researcher Derek Mueller of Carleton University in Ottawa, said

So far, 2020 has witnessed rising temperatures in the Arctic with Siberia experiencing a record-breaking heatwave — causing permafrost to melt rapidly. Last week, NASA images also revealed that two 5,000-year-old ice caps in Canada had melted into oblivion, two years earlier than scientists had estimated. 

“The Arctic is warming at 3 times the average of the globe because of human-caused climate change… and as a result, the landscape of the Arctic is changing at a staggering pace. We are running out of time to limit the damage from climate change,” Jeff Berardelli, meteorologist and climate specialist, had said in July.

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Written By Devrupa Rakshit

Devrupa Rakshit is an associate editor with The Swaddle. She is a lawyer by education, a poet by accident, and a painter by shaukh. She has her own podcast called #DateNightsWithD on Spotify. You can find her on Instagram @devruparakshit.

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