The Antarctic Peninsula has experienced unprecedented warming over the last 50 years and the collapse of part of the Wilkins Ice Shelf is a further indication of climate change in this area. Several ice shelves have retreated in the past 30 years and six have collapsed completely, including the Larsen B Ice Shelf, which collapsed in 2002.
As the Wilkins Ice Shelf is already floating, the loss of this area of ice will not cause an increase in sea level. Sea level will only rise if the ice held back by the ice shelf flows more quickly into the sea. The British Antarctic Survey (BAS) are working with international colleagues to monitor the situation.
Although the loss of this piece of the Wilkins Ice Shelf is of concern, it is not expected to have any direct implications for the UK.
Sir Michael Pitt’s Interim Review of the summer 2007 floods considered climate change impacts and provided a definition of climate change as “the change in average conditions of the atmosphere near the earth’s surface over a long period of time”. Although the summer 2007 floods were extreme in their nature, it would need a more frequent series of extreme events over time to confirm that this event was wholly climate change-related.
However, there is already some evidence of an increase in more intense rainfall events, though not for any wide-ranging trend in flood peaks. The evidence for these trends featured recently in The Climate of the United Kingdom and Recent Trends’ report from the from UK Climate Impacts programme and Met Office.
The UK 21st Century Climate Scenarios (UKCIP08) are due to be published in October 2008. These scenarios are expected to be the most comprehensive package of climate information ever launched in the UK and will help us to adapt to the future risks of climate change. Under our resilience and adaptation project, the Environment Agency and DEFRA will be exploring the latest work from UKCIP08, so that we can better understand and use the science to support future climate change projections, and trend analyses.