In East Antarctica, which is considered relatively unaffected by climate change, an ice shelf nearly half the size of the Saarland has collapsed. Satellite images show that the Konger Ice Shelf, anchored between the mainland and Bowman Island about 50 kilometers away, broke off around March 15. The ice platform was in an area that was almost simultaneously affected by a severe heat wave that caused temperatures to up to 30°C It is usual for that time of year. The ice shelf was very small at only 1,200 square kilometers, but its loss is the largest ice platform collapse since the Larsen B Ice Shelf collapse in 2002.
It remains unclear what role the extremely high temperatures in March 2022 will play in the collapse of the ice platform. By the time temperature records in the Southern Continent’s ice cap made headlines, the Konger Ice Shelf was already gone. While it is reasonable to Warm air flows from Australia The resulting thaw on the surface was the last trigger, but the end of the ice shelf had already been announced in previous months: between January and March 2022 it had already lost half of its area.
The rapid loss of ice may be related to conditions that caused sea ice around the southern continent to shrink to the smallest extent observed in February 2022. The massive loss of sea ice – the second record loss in five years – and the collapse of the ice shelf in Konger surprised experts. East Antarctica has changed over the past few decades Through a mechanism known as the negative effect of global warming It has even cooled a little, and unlike the Arctic, sea ice has not shrunk.
However, research shows that East Antarctica may be less stable in a warmer climate than it currently appears. For example, a 2020 analysis found that the Wilkes Basin, a basin now filled with miles of ice, Contrary to expectations, it was ice-free during a warm phase about 450,000 years ago. In addition, rising sea levels and warmer waters along the coasts of Antarctica make the edges of the ice sheet less stable, so ice loss could also accelerate in East Antarctica.
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