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Largest ice shelf in N hemisphere breaks

The largest ice shelf in the northern hemisphere has fractured into three main pieces, raising concerns among scientists about the fate of the remaining Canadian ice shelves due to global warming.

world Updated: Apr 17, 2008 17:52 IST

The largest ice shelf in the northern hemisphere has fractured into three main pieces, raising concerns among scientists about the fate of the remaining Canadian ice shelves due to global warming.



A team of scientists from Trent University and Canadian Rangers discovered that the largest ice shelf in the northern hemisphere has fractured into three main pieces.



"Canadian ice shelves have undergone substantial changes in the past six years, starting with the first break-up event on the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf, and the loss of the Ayles Ice Shelf," said Luke Copland of the University of Ottawa.



"These latest break-ups we are seeing have come after decades of warming and are irreversible," said polar expert Derek Mueller of Trent University.



Only five large ice shelves remain in Arctic Canada, covering less than a tenth of the area than they did a century ago.



During their patrol across the northern most parts of Canada over the last two weeks, the scientists visited a new 18 kilometre-long network of cracks running from the southern edge of the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf to the Arctic Ocean, the Science Daily online said.



This accompanies a large central fracture that was first detected in 2002, and raises the concern that the remaining ice shelf will disintegrate within the next few years.



The patrol scientists also found that the nearby Petersen Ice Shelf lost over a third of its surface area in the past three years. This ice shelf calved following the break-up of landfast sea ice in the summer of 2005 and 2007, which had protected it from the open ocean.