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Huge ice shelf breaks free in Canadian Arctic

Huge ice shelf breaks free in Canadian Arctic

A giant ice shelf has snapped free from an island south of the North Pole, scientists said Thursday, citing climate change as a "major" reason for the event.
The Ayles Ice Shelf - 66 square kilometers of it - broke clear 16 months ago from the coast of Ellesmere Island, about 800 kilometers south of the North Pole in the Canadian Arctic.
Scientists discovered the event by using satellite imagery. Within one hour of breaking free, the shelf had formed as a new ice island, leaving a trail of icy boulders floating in its wake.
Warwick Vincent of Laval University, who studies Arctic conditions, traveled to the newly formed ice island and was amazed at the sight.
"This is a dramatic and disturbing event. It shows that we are losing remarkable features of the Canadian North that have been in place for many thousands of years," Vincent said. "We are crossing climate thresholds, and these may signal the onset of accelerated change ahead."
The ice shelf was one of six major shelves remaining in Canada's Arctic. They are packed with ancient ice that is more than 3,000 years old. They float on the sea but are connected to land.
Some scientists say it is the largest event of its kind in Canada in 30 years and that climate change was a major element.
"It is consistent with climate change," Vincent said, adding that the remaining ice shelves are 90 percent smaller than when they were first discovered in 1906. "We aren't able to connect all of the dots ... but unusually warm temperatures definitely played a major role."
Within days of breaking free, the Ayles Ice Shelf drifted about 30 miles offshore before freezing into the sea ice. A spring thaw may bring another concern: that warm temperatures will release the new ice island from its Arctic grip, making it an enormous hazard for ships.


Updated : 2021-06-18 02:36 GMT+08:00