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Wilkins Ice Shelf, Antarctica

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Wilkins Ice Shelf, Antarctica

Coordinates: 70 0 S 75 0 W

Approximate Area: 5,282 square miles (13,680 sq. km)

If Connecticut were to shatter into a multitude of small islands and begin to drift into the Long Island Sound, I’m fairly certain the world would take notice. Which is precisely why last week’s news from Antarctica is worth revisiting. Polar researchers monitoring the retreat of the Wilkins Ice Shelf—an area approximately the size of the Constitution State—announced that this already eroding part of the Antarctic Peninsula had lost 160 square miles (414 sq. km) of ice. While this part of the continent has been altered most profoundly by global warming, it is the speed of change that has surprised scientists who have studied glaciers here for decades. As the New York Times put it in a cautionary editorial, “Nothing dramatizes the urgency of global warming quite like a fracture of this scale. There is nothing to be done about a collapsing polar ice sheet except to witness it.”
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Ben Keene is the editor of Oxford Atlas of the World. Check out some of his previous places of the week.

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