Antarctic ice shelf ‘hangs by a thread’

European scientists have revealed that a large floating ice shelf attached to Antarctica is breaking up, in what they describe as a worrying sign of global warming.

The European Space Agency (ESA) said images taken by a remote-sensing satellite show that Wilkins Ice Shelf is "hanging by its last thread" to Charcot Island.

Wilkins Ice Shelf had been stable for most of the last century, covering around 16,000 square kilometres before it began to retreat in the 1990s. Since then, several large areas have broken away.

"Wilkins Ice Shelf is the most recent in a long, and growing, list of ice shelves on the Antarctic Peninsula that are responding to the rapid warming that has occurred in this area over the last fifty years," David Vaughan, of the British Antarctic Survey, was quoted as saying.

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