March 19, 2002 --
Satellite monitoring of the Antarctic Peninsula shows the rapid and massive collapse of an ice shelf -- the latest development in the continent's confounding climatic picture.
In about 35 days, a portion of the ice shelf larger than Rhode Island disintegrated, leaving behind thousands of smaller bergs.
British Antarctic Survey scientists had earlier predicted that the 650-mile thick plate of ice would collapse, just not so quickly. "The speed of it is staggering. Hard to believe that 500 billion tonnes of ice sheet has disintegrated in less than a month," says BAS glaciologist David Vaughan.
Larsen B is one of five ice shelves -- large floating extensions of ice sheets covering the continent -- that's been on retreat. While Antarctica's interior seems to be cooling and its glaciers thickening, studies show the Antarctic Peninsula has been warming over the past 50 years. For All Things Considered,Richard Harris reports.