Climate change is proving to be the ultimate bully to our poor friend Antarctica. BACKPACKER previously followed the possibility of extinction for its Emperor Penguins and new studies suggesting it's warming more than originally thought. In yet another blow to the continent, an ice wall collapsed this weekend allowing a large ice shelf to drift free from Antarctica.
An ice bridge connecting the 25-mile long Wilkins ice shelf to the Antarctic Peninsula collapsed on April 4, breaking up into chunks in the Southern Ocean. The 3.8 degree Fahrenheit increase in temperature in the Antarctic during the last 50 years is said to be one of the causes of the break, a factor that often effects ice sheets further north than the Wilkins. Luckily, the break won't effect sea levels—think of ice melting in a glass of water—but it does leave the land-bound ice behind it exposed to melting.
Partially in response to the shattering of the ice bridge, the Obama administration called for increased polar protection today. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said, "With the collapse of an ice bridge that holds in place the Wilkins Ice Shelf, we are reminded that global warming has already had enormous effects on our planet, and we have no time to lose in tackling this crisis." In an effort to reduce human impact, Clinton also called for limits on the size of cruise ships in the area as well as the number of people they let onshore.
A friend of mine recently visited Patagonia and watched huge pieces of ice shear off and crash into the sea from melting ice sheets. Have you ever witnessed any effects of climate change firsthand? Let us know in the comments section below.
Image credit: elisfanclub (via Flickr)