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Global warming is very real, extreme climatic events are multiplying, at the image of the record temperatures recorded last week at the two poles of the Earth. The temperature in East Antarctica reached minus 20,8 degrees Celsius, more than 40 degrees Celsius higher than the seasonal norm. After only a few days, satellite imagery captured, the 15 march, the dramatic end of a large ice shelf in this region of Antarctica , the “Conger” barrier. Illustration of what our future holds for us.
The platforms glacial forms (in English ice shelves), or ice barriers , are a peculiarity of Antarctica, although they are also found in Greenland and Canada. These are pack ice (frozen sea water) on which glaciers have settled by compacting the snow. When they break, they give rise to flat icebergs. Thus, they are extensions of ice caps that float above the ocean, playing an important role in retaining the interior ice.
Andrew Mackintosh, ice sheet expert and director of the School of Earth, Atmosphere and Environment at Monash University in Australia, explains: “If they collapse, inland ice flow accelerates and causes sea level rise”.
The Conger Ice Shelf, which was off the east coast of Antarctica at side of the (much larger) Shackleton platform — named in honor of Ernest Shackleton — completely disappeared on 15 March. It was approximately 1200 square kilometers, or barely smaller than Los Angeles and about a third the size of the Larsen B ice shelf, which disintegrated into 2022.
Unprecedented, dramatic and rapid disappearance
The collapse was captured by satellite imagery and shared on social networks by Dr. Catherine Colello Walker, scientist at NASA and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. The images show that the platform remained intact for a period of three months in January 2022 and shattered like a piece of glass in the last two images, which were taken barely a week apart in March 2022. According to the National Ice Center, an American agency monitoring the platforms, the disintegration of the pack ice gave birth to an iceberg of nearly 11 km long on 18 km wide, baptized C-40, which then broke into two pieces.
Even if the formal evidence of the implication of the heat wave on the collapse of the Conger platform are not there yet, the climate emergency is no longer to be demonstrated and our future seems to be compromised in much shorter timeframes than expected.