University of Delaware climate researcher Andreas Muenchow said in a statement last week that, according to NASA satellite data, a massive ice shelf four times the size of Manhattan has broken off from north-western Greenland. Within hours, the Canadian Ice Service confirmed the report. “The new ice island has an area of at least 100 square miles and a thickness up to half the height of the Empire State Building,” Muenchow said.
The Hill reports that on Saturday, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), who has been leading the legislative effort to confront climate change, used the occasion to chastise his obstructionist colleagues:
“An iceberg four times the size of Manhattan has broken off Greenland, creating plenty of room for global warming deniers to start their own country,” Markey said in a statement. “So far, 2010 has been the hottest year on record, and scientists agree arctic ice is a canary in a coal mine that provides clear warnings on climate.” [...]
He said it was “unclear how many giant blocks of ice it will take to break the block of Republican climate deniers in the US Senate who continue hold this critical clean energy and climate legislation hostage.”
Indeed, the giant ice island highlights the need for Congress to act. An expert report on Arctic temperatures published in Science magazine last year found evidence “that the most recent 10-year interval (1999–2008) was the warmest of the past 200 decades”:
During the late 20th century, our proxy-inferred summer temperatures were the warmest of the past two millennia, with four of the five warmest decades of our 2000-year-long reconstruction occurring between 1950 and 2000. In recent years, the magnitude of the warming seems to have emerged above the natural variability, consistent with the sharp reduction in summer sea-ice cover.
According to a recent National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report, 2010 Arctic sea ice extent was the lowest on record for the month of June:
Arctic sea ice continued its annual decline, typically reaching a September minimum. Similar to May 2010, the Arctic sea ice continued to decline at a record rapid rate. … June 2010 Arctic sea ice extent was 10.9 million square kilometers (10.6 percent or 1.29 million square kilometers below the 1979–2000 average), resulting in the lowest June sea ice extent since records began in 1979—the previous June record low was set in 2006.