Today an international conference broke up in Cancun, Mexico, after reaching agreement on some modest steps to help poorer nations cope with the effects of climate change. As we approach the official start of winter in the Northern Hemisphere, it's not so easy to wrap our minds around the potential impacts of warmer temperatures -- but a telling reminder that we're living in a warmer world came in 2002, when Antarctica's Larsen B ice shelf broke up dramatically.
This image shows the state of things on March 7, 2002, as seen by the imaging spectrometer aboard NASA's Terra satellite. Thousands of slivered icebergs and a large light blue area of very finely divided bits of ice float where the shelf once was. Brownish streaks within the floating chunks mark areas where debris was exposed from the former underside and interior of the shelf. The last phases of the shelf's retreat totaled about 1,000 square miles -- which is roughly equal to the land area of Rhode Island. You can click through a time-lapse series of pictures showing the breakup at NASA's Earth Observatory website.
The ice shelf's collapse is today's offering in the Cosmic Log Space Advent Calendar, which features views of Earth from space every day until Christmas. Here are the previous pictures in the set, along with links to three other Advent calendars with space themes:
- The Cosmic Log Space Advent Calendar so far
- Door 1 for Dec. 1: Shuttle in spotlight
- Door 2 for Dec. 2: 'Alien' lake seen from space
- Door 3 for Dec. 3: Egypt's river of light
- Door 4 for Dec. 4: Tallest building reaches for the sky
- Door 5 for Dec. 5: Russia's dazzling delta
- Door 6 for Dec. 6: Space skipper vs. the world
- Door 7 for Dec. 7: Pearl Harbor from the heavens
- Door 8 for Dec. 8: Listening for E.T.
- Door 9 for Dec. 9: Blast from the past
- Door 10 for Dec. 10: Volcano caught in the act
- The Big Picture at Boston.com: Hubble Advent calendar
- Planetary Society: Solar system Advent calendar
- Zooniverse Advent calendar
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