Thursday, December 28, 2006 Giant ice shelf snaps free from Canada's Arctic

STEVE LILLEBUEN Canadian Press A giant ice shelf the size of 11,000 football fields has snapped free from Canada's Arctic, leaving a trail of icy boulders floating in its wake. The mass of ice broke clear from the coast of Ellesmere Island, about 800 kilometres south of the North Pole. Warwick Vincent of Laval University, who studies Arctic conditions, travelled to the newly formed ice island and couldn't believe what he saw. “It was extraordinary,” Dr. Vincent said Thursday, adding that in 10 years of working in the region he has never seen such a dramatic loss of sea ice.

NASA/AFP/Getty images

This NASA Terra satellite image from 2003 shows the Arctic's largest ice shelf was breaking up even then. Rising temperatures have reduced the original Ward Hunt Ice Shelf into a number of smaller shelves, the largest of which was the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf on the northwest fringe of the Ellesmere island. (NASA/AFP/Getty images)

“This is a piece of Canadian geography that no longer exists.” The collapse was so powerful that earthquake monitors 250 kilometres away picked up tremors from it. Scientists say it is the largest event of its kind in 30 years and point their fingers at climate change as a major contributing factor.

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