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Science

Giant Ice Shelf Snaps 529

Posted by Zonk
from the as-long-as-the-movie-doesn't-feature-sandra-bullock dept.
Popo writes "Sattelite images have revealed that an ancient 66 square-kilometer ice shelf, the size of 11,000 football fields, has snapped off from an island in Canada's arctic. The Ayles Ice Shelf was one of 6 major shelves remaining in Canada's arctic and is estimated to be over 3000 years old. The collapse was so powerful that earthquake monitors 250 km away picked up tremors. Scientists say it is the largest event of its kind in 30 years and point their fingers at climate change as a major contributing factor."
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Giant Ice Shelf Snaps

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  • Drinks all around! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by RuneSpyder (963917)
    Does 3000 year old ice make a good margarita?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I think good Tequila and mix will make the margarita better than 3000 yr old ice. Besides, that ice has been outside for a long time with penguins, polar bears and what nots crapping all over it. That is NOT good eats!
  • Overlooked (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sporkme (983186) * on Friday December 29, 2006 @05:29PM (#17402946) Homepage
    TFAs:
    Using US and Canadian satellite images, as well as data from seismic monitors, Copland discovered that the ice shelf collapsed in the early afternoon of August 13, 2005.

    At the longest and widest spans, the remains of the Ayles shelf are about 15 kilometres long and five kilometres wide. The fragment is between 30 and 40 metres thick.
    This makes me wonder what else might have been overlooked.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 29, 2006 @05:29PM (#17402948)
    11,000 football fields. Yeah, there's an easy-to-visualize image. What a helpful comparison.
  • by Elentari (1037226) on Friday December 29, 2006 @05:30PM (#17402952) Journal
    It lasted a good deal longer than any shelf I've ever put up.
  • by Ice Wewe (936718) on Friday December 29, 2006 @05:30PM (#17402956)
    Dang it! I thought we told those Penguins that they couldn't keep dancing like that!
  • Seriously, is there anything happening in the arctic or antarctic regions that IS NOT the cause of Global Warming?
  • by JeanBaptiste (537955) on Friday December 29, 2006 @05:30PM (#17402966)
    the size of 11,000 football fields

    NFL? Canadian? European kickball?

    Besides, this is a nerds site. Don't make athletic references.

    Volkswagen Bugs or Libraries of Congress would be more appropriate.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Joebert (946227)
      Besides, this is a nerds site. Don't make athletic references.

      Ok, imagine 11,000 of thoose fields the Jocks chased you across trying to give you a wedgie.

      Is that better ?
    • by Shihar (153932) on Friday December 29, 2006 @07:03PM (#17404070)
      Let me put that football measurement into something a slashdotter can relate to. It had the area of screen on a 728,000 inch monitor.
  • Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Friday December 29, 2006 @05:31PM (#17402978)

    Scientists say it is the largest event of its kind in 30 years and point their fingers at climate change as a major contributing factor."

    So what was the cause 30 years ago?

    It's a fair question, yes? Like when I hear "such and such place recorded the highest temperature in 150 years this week!" I think "What caused the previous high 150 years agp?" My brain has a pesky habit of continually asking questions. All those X-Files episodes, I guess. Trust no one. Ideologues hate me.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by peragrin (659227)
      that's my thought. a 1300 years ago it was so warm in England that english wine was better than french wine. I am not going to worry about Global warming until that happens again.

      So the ice shelf is 3000 years old. That means 4000 years ago it was so warm that it couldn't form.

      • by FhnuZoag (875558)
        They still make wine in England today. And some people think that it tastes better than French wine. And Africa, where it is a whole lot hotter than France, doesn't make good wine at all. How 'good' wine tastes is no indicator of global temperature conditions.

        The thing is, we do not *want* to return to the situation of over 3000 years ago, because it is not a situation in which modern civilisation has arisen.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by peragrin (659227)
          sometime around 800, france was so hot that it's wine wasn't very good, and England was just warm enough to make it's wine better than France's.

          That was my point. apparently I was being too subtle for you. That England has been that warm in the "recent" past. While CO2 emmissions might be speeding up the normal cycle, fact is that weather temperatures go up and down. if the ice shelf is 3000 years old then it's younger than the pyramids and younger than the jewish religion.

          let's put it into perspective
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Decaff (42676)
        that's my thought. a 1300 years ago it was so warm in England that english wine was better than french wine. I am not going to worry about Global warming until that happens again.

        This is a very naive view. The problem is that most of our current civilization and infrastructure has been developed in the past few centuries during which the climate was not that warm. This infrastructure is fragile - it would not take much sea rise or change in rainfall patterns to cause major problems for a significant propo
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Procyon101 (61366)
          It isn't that fragile. No amount of climate change is going to erase the rotary engine, mathematics, electricity, etc.... away and leave us back in the dark ages. Well, no climate change due to global warming anyway... The people you are most worried about are the ones who still live the same way we did 1300 years ago, so civilization isn't the most solid argument against global warming.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by scribblej (195445)
      That could just mean they've only been measuring for 30 years; it's more honest than saying 'in recorded history!' -- although if it is the case, they should say both to make it clear.

      While you're asking good questions, add this one on: How is it that this thing is only 3000 years old? In geological timescales, that's nothing. The "blink of an eye." If it only just developed in the first place, why should we care that it's gone away again?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Peter La Casse (3992)
        why should we care that it's gone away again?

        Because it serves someone's political interests.

    • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by FhnuZoag (875558) on Friday December 29, 2006 @05:43PM (#17403172)
      As for the 150 years thing, it's because they had no thermometers 150 years ago, so their records only go back 150 years.

      And in this case, the 30 years figure is because observations of this kind done with satellites has only been possible for 30 years, and any prior event would be impossible to measure.
      • Re:Well... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by mgrassi99 (514152) on Friday December 29, 2006 @06:52PM (#17403966)
        What struck me was that the article mentioned the ice formations being about 3000 years old. Leading me to believe that over 3000 years ago, it was warmer, and then it got colder. And now its getting warmer again. Sooooo....can we prove that it truly is global warming now, and not part of some other cyclical change?
    • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rucs_hack (784150) on Friday December 29, 2006 @05:46PM (#17403214)
      I'm no environmental scientist, but surely there would need to be many such events measured before we could really start saying what caused it.

      Is this a natural cycle? How long has this particular event been brewing? Have there been any other factors involved that can be discovered? These questions need to be answered before causes can be decided.

      I am concerned about global warming, but I am also concerned about political motivations determining hypothesis, or special interest groups leaping on events and trumpeting them as being caused by their particular bugbear.

      Such things do not good science make, and we need good science to get to grips with the causes of these events, lest we wander too far from the truth of it.
      • Re:Well... (Score:5, Informative)

        by naoursla (99850) on Friday December 29, 2006 @07:03PM (#17404076) Homepage Journal
        Go watch Al Gore's documentary "An Inconvenient Truth". He presents data gathered by scientists that use ice core samples to infer temperature and CO2 cycles over the last 650,000 years. The data as he presents it is pretty compelling. If you choose, you can then do more research on your own to determine the veracity of that data, but it will help answer many of the questions you pose.
    • " Scientists say it is the largest event of its kind in 30 years and point their fingers at climate change as a major contributing factor."
      So what was the cause 30 years ago?

      Probably a set of major contributing factors that did not include climate change, as can be inferred from the quote.

      :P
    • can I take a shot. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Brigadier (12956)


      I think I see where your going with this ie. is it a new event or just a re-occuring event. I'm a guess and say the first. You figure 30 years ago the ice shelves/glaciers were as much as twice as big as they are now. It all comes down to proportion. let say 30 years ago ice shelves represented about 500 square miles of area (ficticous number) this number proportionally wasnt' much. now lets reduce the total square footage of ice sheets by half, then break of the same amout. Yes it's the same as 30 years a
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by qortra (591818)
      So what was the cause 30 years ago?

      Maybe it was a climate change? The climate changes all the time for various reasons, some of which we know, and most of which we don't.

      I get the feeling that when you see "climate change", you assume that somebody is trying to push an ideology(specifically, Global Warming). I don't think this is the case. It's a fact that there is climate change, and it's a fact that the current climate change includes a increase in temperature, but not everybody claims that this i
    • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Decaff (42676) on Friday December 29, 2006 @06:00PM (#17403438)
      So what was the cause 30 years ago?

      It's a fair question, yes? Like when I hear "such and such place recorded the highest temperature in 150 years this week!" I think "What caused the previous high 150 years agp?" My brain has a pesky habit of continually asking questions.


      The problem is, you need to ask the right questions - you are asking the wrong ones. What matters is not what caused an area of ice to break off 30 years ago. The correct question is: "How much faster is the ice breaking off now than then?" Just because it has taken 30 years for an area to exceed the previous record, does not mean that no ice has been breaking off since.... in fact, warming might might mean that smaller pieces break off more often, explaining the long time to break the record!

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by argStyopa (232550)
        No, the question is: why has it taken so long for the planet to start to warm again to what are the more reasonable mean temperatures it's had for most of its history (if it is indeed doing so)?

        http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Image:Holocene_T emperature_Variations.png [wikimedia.org]

        or, if you prefer a larger timescale:
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:65_Myr_Climate_ Change.png [wikipedia.org]

        Oh wait, that question is so so hurtful. I must be paid by the oil firms or something.
        • Re:Well... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Catbeller (118204) on Friday December 29, 2006 @08:23PM (#17404702) Homepage
          According to core drills, we've the highest CO2 levels in over, I think, 60 million years. And the higher levels map precisely to the amount of CO2 and methane we've been pumping into the air, along with the reduction of the ability of the biospher to convert the CO2 to O2 and carbon, due to, oh, cutting all the damned forests down and killing the phytoplankton in the oceans that do the other half of the recycling. We've jacked the greenhouse gases and are slowly crushing the recycling system. It doesn't take an engineer to see what happens after that. We warm up, and warm up catastrophically. That means a lot of things. The Gulf Stream may move. BAD. Europe freezes. Deserts grow. Water dries up worldwide at an increasing rate. Wind patterns change. Storms change. Food supply goes down, and God ain't even providin' for those we have now, sorry Popes.

          What else does it mean? WARS. Lots and lots of wars. Wars almost always are about resources, and shrinking resources and accelerating ecological catastrophe means mankind goes apeshit. Hell, we've just killed 600 thousand people just to control the oil spigot to Asia. Imagine what people will do for livable land and a water supply. Hell, water holes worldwide are being PURCHASED by American speculator right now -- Enron was big into water supply futures before the bastards went dead, but others took their place. Raw capitalism may ignite war long before real changes occur, because the truly evil men in this world will start charging fortunes to access water supplies around the world. We're gonna need a really big army to keep off all the people who are going to want to kill us.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Brandybuck (704397)
      Fun with statistics:

      365 days per year, 150 years of temperature records, and a wild-ass assumption that a 10 degree variation is "normal" for a given day of the year.

      Given those numbers, how many record high temperatures would this predict for 2007?
  • If only all those explorers could have waited a few hundred years...
  • by brennanw (5761) * on Friday December 29, 2006 @05:37PM (#17403052) Homepage Journal
    Scientists say it is the largest event of its kind in 30 years and point their fingers at climate change as a major contributing factor.


    The implication is that 30 years ago there was a larger event. So if a smaller sheet of ice broke off now than the one from 30 years back, doesn't that mean the problem is going away? :)
  • by Jeffrey Baker (6191) on Friday December 29, 2006 @05:38PM (#17403068)
    How many hockey rinks is that?
  • by -kertrats- (718219) on Friday December 29, 2006 @05:41PM (#17403136) Journal
    I was hoping to get a quick translation of football fields to Rhode Islands [google.com], but Google couldn't help me. Anyone else with a better calculator available?
  • by SydBarrett (65592) on Friday December 29, 2006 @05:46PM (#17403218)
    If you look closely, you can see where explosives were planted near the base. There is no way the self could have collapsed on its own. And isn't it strange how no penguins came to work that day?

    Canada should totally start rebuilding that ice shelf just to show those terrorists that NOBODY messes with Canada, eh?
  • As the movies have taught us, when an ice shelf snaps the entire northern hemisphere freezes solid. All y'all up there in the northlands are f**ked. And where I live in San Diego, housing costs will soar. :)
  • Because 11,000 football fields is easier to imagine than 66 square kilometers.
  • Al Gore (Score:4, Funny)

    by cowtamer (311087) on Friday December 29, 2006 @06:08PM (#17403522) Journal
    Clearly the cause is Al Gore [theonion.com] and his liberal whiners who are jelaous of the success of the hardworking oil industry... :)
  • by LiTa03 (879539) on Friday December 29, 2006 @06:19PM (#17403654)
    ...and is estimated to be over 3000 years old
    Almost as old as earth itself...
  • Been There Done That (Score:5, Informative)

    by sycodon (149926) on Friday December 29, 2006 @06:23PM (#17403684)
    Maybe he should have worked there longer. Follow this link.

    http://pubs.aina.ucalgary.ca/arctic/Arctic39-1-15. pdf [ucalgary.ca]

    In 1984 this study was done in Canada. The first page kind of says it all.

    " Between 1959 and 1974 a total of 48sqkm calved off from Milne and Ayles ice shelves. In addition, the Ayles Ice Shelf moved about 5km out into Ayles Ford"

    Not quite 66 sqkm but close. And it sounds as if the shelf broke off rather recently within a few decades, and somehow reattached itself. No mention of that in the story, but there is a significant emphasis that the ice is 3000 years old and ancient. Making it seem as if this has been the same for 3000 years. Next at the bottom left of the first page.

    "The largest observed ice calving occurred at Ward Hunt Ice Shelf (just north of Ayles) where almost 600SQKM, broke off between 1961 and 1962.
    • by xutopia (469129) on Friday December 29, 2006 @07:08PM (#17404122) Homepage

      Those historical figures are for small bits or simple melting. They aren't for large blocks the size of this one popping off.

      " Between 1959 and 1974 a total of 48sqkm calved off from Milne and Ayles ice shelves. In addition, the Ayles Ice Shelf moved about 5km out into Ayles Ford"

      "The largest observed ice calving occurred at Ward Hunt Ice Shelf (just north of Ayles) where almost 600SQKM, broke off between 1961 and 1962".

    • Did you really just compare 66sqkm in a singular event with 48sqkm over a period of 15 years and suggest that the two are close to equivalent? The article notes that, one, this was discovered by comparing recent satellite images (which suggests a sudden event), and two, that the calving created shockwaves recorded at very distant locations (again, suggesting a single event). Thus, it's 66sqkm in an instant, compared with a little over 3sqkm per year. Doesn't seem equal to me.
  • Where was that? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Holistic Missile (976980) on Friday December 29, 2006 @07:15PM (#17404202)
    ..about 800 kilometres south of the North Pole.

    At the north pole, isn't every direction south?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      ..about 800 kilometres south of the North Pole.

      At the north pole, isn't every direction south?
      Hmmm. Well, there's "up"...
  • by MerlynEmrys67 (583469) on Friday December 29, 2006 @07:59PM (#17404538)
    Either 11,000 football fields
    Or 1/50th the size of Rhode Island

    Which one seems bigger to you?

  • Sad (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mugnyte (203225) on Friday December 29, 2006 @09:26PM (#17405078) Journal
    I find it depressing how each relevant news item causes an almost identical repeat of circular arguing from the standard positions on Global Warming. Nothing as yet has caused a "tipping point" of reconsideration from the average population. I'm just not hearing it from the charismatic speakers of divergent groups that Yes Indeed This Is A Problem.

      This doesn't cause me to doubt it exists, or that we've caused it. It causes me to doubt that anything will seriously change. Business As Usual.

      This shelf detaching (and then refreezing later) is a potential for Greenland. If we get a sudden few feet in ocean water (unlike an ice shelf, Greenland's ice will move from land to ocean), then an extended European winter, mass fishing industry havoc and the economic ripples everywhere - it may wake everyone up.

      Or it may not. History has shown that death itself is the most effective societal teacher.

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