Wilkins Ice Shelf, Sea Ice Extent Animation

Wilkins Ice Shelf Collapse in Google EarthA few days ago, the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) released dramatic imagery showing a huge portion of the Wilkins Ice Shelf in Antarctica, 13,680 sq. km in size, which broke off and began disintegrating a few days ago at the end of the Antarctic summer. This is another dramatic instance of the huge ice melting at both poles of our planet. The new ice in the water will have a temporary effect of cooling the nearby waters (just like ice in your drink), but as it melts – and if the temperatures continue to rise – the ice melting will only accelerate in the coming years.
Stefan at OgleEarth took the NASA photos from the NSIDC and created a couple of image overlays so you can see the view of the ice shelf break-up right where it happened in Google Earth. And, you can grab the transparency slider beneath the Places pane to compare the new photos to the base imagery in GE. Stefan’s post also shares a YouTube video showing a flyby of this huge ice break-up (note that the cliffs of ice are 60+ feet tall!):

The Snow and Ice Data Center has some excellent Google Earth KML visualizations (see previous GEB story). My favorite is the sea ice extent time animation . This animation lets you see the extent of sea ice for either September or October from 1979 through the present. The pink lines show the normal average ice extent. Look at this past September 2007 ice extent report for the Arctic region for the dramatic drop in ice last summer (read GEB post on this). Hopefully the NSIDC will add the March 2008 update to this file soon.

About Frank Taylor

Frank Taylor started the Google Earth Blog in July, 2005 shortly after Google Earth was first released. He has worked with 3D computer graphics and VR for many years and was very impressed with this exciting product. Frank completed a 5.5 year circumnavigation of the earth by sailboat in June 2015 which you can read about at Tahina Expedition, and is a licensed pilot, backpacker, diver, and photographer.


  1. If this causes the sea level to rise I’ll eat my hat.

  2. Dave Andersen says:

    Was just looking at the 30 year trend data at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, here: http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/
    The thirty year trend shows a significant increase in the Southern Hemisphere, a significant decrease in the North, leading to a net near-zero change in sea ice globally.
    Global ice area graph: http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/IMAGES/global.daily.ice.area.withtrend.jpg
    What are your thoughts?

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