Giant Glacier Falls Into Ocean near New Zealand

Friday, May 10, 2002

WASHINGTON — A huge ice shelf 10 times bigger than Manhattan has plummeted into the sea near New Zealand, U.S. government scientists said Thursday, adding urgency to warnings that global temperatures are rising for the worse.

The news follows the March collapse of the Larsen B ice shelf in Antarctica in the Weddell Sea near Chile — which was the size of a small European country.

The collapse on the Ross ice shelf in the Ross Sea near the Pacific Ocean and New Zealand is about 41 nautical miles long and 4 nautical miles wide.

It was spotted by the National Ice Center in Suitland, Md., which analyzed infrared photos taken May 5 by a military satellite. The collapse likely occurred over the last two weeks, a spokesman for the center said.

The Ice Center gathers data for the U.S. Department of Defense, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and U.S. Coast Guard.

The collapse is a result of so-called calving, as constant motion by polar ice caps fractures the ice into sometimes-large fragments that float loose into the sea.

Green groups pointed to the ice shelf collapses as evidence that emissions of greenhouse gases are causing global temperatures to rise and the polar ice caps to melt.

For meteorological reasons, glaciers are one of the first indicators of rising planetary temperatures, said Kalee Kreider, a global warming expert at the National Environmental Trust. "They're a canary in the coal mine for the global warming trend," Kreider said.

Carbon emissions from power plants and factories have been linked to global warming, which scientists warn could lead to massive flooding and rising ocean levels. The United States is the world's largest emitter of so-called greenhouse gases.

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