NYC-Sized Ice Chunk Breaks Off in Antarctica

The breakup of the Wilkins Ice Shelf is expected to continue for weeks

A massive ice shelf nearly the size of New York City has broken away from an ice shelf on the Antarctic peninsula, researchers said.

Satellite images show already 270-square miles of ice have broken off the Wilkins Ice Shelf and fallen into the sea since Friday. Scientists expect the ice shelf to lose more than 1,300-square miles in the coming weeks -- a chunk larger than the state of Rhode Island, MSNBC reported.

"There is little doubt that these changes are the result of atmospheric warming," said David Vaughan of the British Antarctic Survey. "The retreat of the Wilkins Ice Shelf is the latest and the largest of its kind."

The Wilkins Ice Shelf, which is about the size of Jamaica, has been quiet for most of the last century. The average temperature in the area has risen by 3.8 degrees Fahrenheit in the last 50 years -- that's a higher jump in temperature than the global average, according to studies reported on by MSNBC.

Last year alone, the Wilkins Ice Shelf lost 14 percent of its mass.

"The retreat of Wilkins Ice Shelf is the latest and the largest of its kind," Vaughan said.

The floating ice shelves do not expect to raise the sea level significantly because the floating ice is already submerged by the ocean.

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