Saturday, December 30, 2006

Canada losing its cool

Arctic ice shelf collapse poses risk: expert
An ancient ice shelf the size of 11,000 football fields that broke off Ellesmere Island could be dangerous when it starts to drift in the spring, a scientist says.

The collapse of the ice island's northern coast represents the largest breakup of its kind in the Canadian Arctic in 30 years, the head of a new global ice lab at the University of Ottawa said on Thursday.

Luke Copland, an assistant professor at the school's department of geography, said scientists are surprised at the speed of the collapse of the Ayles ice shelf, about 800 kilometres south of the North Pole. It took less than an hour.

He said the new island formed by the 66-square-kilometre fragment, which could be up to 4,500 years old, could present a serious risk to oil platforms in its drift path in the spring.

The collapse of the Ayles shelf — one of six that still existed in Canada — occurred 16 months ago, on Aug. 13, 2005, but because it is so remote, no one saw it.

The researchers suspect climate change may have played a role in the collapse but said they cannot definitively say it is a result of global warming.

Ice Mass Snaps Free From Canada's Arctic By Rob Gillies



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