Canada’s last fully intact ice shelf got reduced by 43 per cent in size over July 30 and 31. This event occurred when the Milne Ice Shelf in the northern territory of Nunavut on Ellesmere Island disintegrated into the sea. By Kumar Shree

The large sheet of ice that collapsed was about 80 square kilometres in size, which is way larger than Manhattan that measures up to 60 square kilometres. The huge chunk of ice further broke into two as it drifted into the Arctic sea. The Copernicus Sentinel satellite captured this entire incident, which is called calving in the scientific term.


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The Canadian Ice Service in its tweet said, “Above normal air temperatures, offshore winds, and open water in front of the ice shelf are all part of the recipe for ice shelf break up.”

The Water and Ice Research Laboratory (WIRL) has also stated that the ice shelf is pretty unstable, and the pre-existing fractures in the remaining part of the Milne Ice Shelf can further break down.

The breakdown also engulfed a research site sitting over it. Luckily, Derek Mueller, a professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies at Carleton University, was not there with his team. He wrote about the incident in his blog post. “We were not on the ice shelf when this happened, our camp area and instruments were all destroyed in this event,” he wrote. The professor and his team’s visit was cancelled this year because of the Coronavirus pandemic.


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The event is worrisome as ice shelves like these act as a dam and limits the rise of global sea levels. Since they restrict the movement of melting ice and water into the oceans, they are essential for the environment.

Not just that, calving events of this scale can also prove hazardous for the shipping industry as large icebergs floating across the oceans can hamper operations.

What’s even more worrisome is that this is not the first of such events for the Canadian Arctic.

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