Wilkins Sound

Wilkins Sound

Wilkins Sound is a seaway in Antarctica that is largely occupied by the Wilkins Ice Shelf. It is located between the concave western coastline of Alexander Island and the shores of Charcot Island and Latady Island farther to the west.

Its northern portion was first seen and roughly mapped in 1910 by the French Antarctic Expedition under Jean-Baptiste Charcot and was observed from the air in 1929 by Sir Hubert Wilkins. The configuration of the sound was determined in 1940 on exploratory flights by the US Antarctic Service (USAS). It was named by the USAS for Sir Hubert Wilkins, who in 1929 first proved "Charcot Land" to be an island (see Charcot Island) and thereby indirectly discovered this feature. The existence of Latady Island at the southwest side of the sound was determined in 1960 by D.J.H. Searle of Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey (FIDS) by examination of air photos taken by the Ronne Antarctic Research Expedition (RARE), 1947–48.

Wilkins Ice Shelf

The Wilkins Ice Shelf is a rectangular ice shelf about 80 nautical miles long and 60 nautical miles wide (150 km by 110 km). This feature occupies the central part of Wilkins Sound, from which it takes its name. The name was proposed by the UK Antarctic Place-Names Committee (UK-APC) in 1971.

Effects of global warming

In 1993 Professor David Vaughan of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) predicted that the northern part of the Wilkins ice shelf was likely to be lost within 30 years if climate warming on the Peninsula were to continue at the same rate. [ [http://www.antarctica.ac.uk/press/press_releases/press_release.php?id=376 British Antarctic Survey, "Antarctic ice shelf hangs by a thread"] ]

A study by the National Academy of Sciences in 2002 stated, "Because air temperatures are statistically increasing along the Antarctic Peninsula region, the presence of glacial meltwater is likely to become more prevalent in these surface waters and continue to play an ever-increasing role in driving this fragile ecosystem." In 2008 David Vaughan conceded his predictions had been too conservative and that events on the ground were moving quicker than he anticipated. [cite web |url=http://www.esa.int/esaCP/SEM2U5THKHF_index_0.html |title=Wilkins Ice Shelf hanging by its last thread |accessdate=2008-08-08 |date=2008-07-10 |work= |publisher=European Space Agency ]

On March 25, 2008 a 405 km² (160 sq mi) chunk of the Wilkins ice shelf disintegrated, putting an even larger portion of the glacial ice shelf at risk. [http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5jnjYmtmAnaPQ4YWKA6WpWdm2X8yAD8VKMVQ80 Associated Press, "Western Antarctic Ice Chunk Collapses"] ] [Satellite imagery from the United States [http://nsidc.org/news/press/20080325_Wilkins.html "National Snow and Ice Data Center"] Scientists at the University of Colorado at Boulder offered the first alert. ( [http://www.mercopress.com/vernoticia.do?id=12976&formato=HTML Mercopress, "Gigantic ice shelf breaking away"] , 26 March 2008).] While temperature almost certainly played a part in this disintegration, several recent earthquakes magnitude 5.0 and greater along the Pacific-Antarctic Ridge may also have contributed. [http://neic.usgs.gov/neis/bulletin/neic_pcb7.html USGS Earthquake Report PCB7] ] [http://neic.usgs.gov/neis/bulletin/neic_pscf.html USGS Earthquake Report BSCF] ] [http://neic.usgs.gov/neis/bulletin/neic_pekf.html USGS Earthquake Report PEKF] ] Scientists were surprised when they discovered the rest of the 14,000 km² (5,400 sq mi) [The US state of Connecticut is convert|5543|sqmi|km2|abbr=on, the island of Jamaica convert|4244|sqmi|km2|abbr=on.] ice shelf is beginning to break away from the continent. What is left of the Wilkins ice shelf is now connected by only a narrow beam of ice. [http://environment.newscientist.com/article/dn13530-antarctic-iceshelf-hanging-by-a-thread.html Antarctic ice shelf 'hanging by a thread'] , "New Scientist", 2008-03-25, accessed on 2008-03-25] At the end of May, another break-off further reduced the width of the connecting ice strip from 6 km to 2.7 km.cite web |url=http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080613104743.htm |title=Even The Antarctic Winter Cannot Protect Wilkins Ice Shelf |accessdate=2008-06-15 |date=2008-06-14 |work=sciencedaily.com] This second smaller event, with about 160 km² of ice separating, was the first documented break-up that occurred in winter. ] The Wilkins Ice Shelf is not connected to inland glaciers in the same way as the Larsen B Ice Shelf was and will therefore have a negligible effect on sea level rise. ]

ee also

*Pine Island Bay
*Rothschild Island


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