December 29, 2006 - By Rob Gillies, Associated Press
TORONTO - 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 -- all 41 square miles of it -- broke clear 16 months
ago from the coast of Ellesmere Island, about 500 miles 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 couldn't believe what he saw.
"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.
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