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An Eroding Peninsula

The Antarctic plays a significant role in determining the world's climate, and radar remote sensing has proved to be a uniquely valuable tool for recording conditions and monitoring the processes taking place in this vast and remote area. The image of the month for October 1998 shows two radar mosaics of the Antarctic Peninsula which make use of data recorded by DLR at its antarctic receiving station during two winter campaigns. A comparison reveals three significant changes.

Eroding Antarctic

The large, bright surface of the Larsen ice shelf on the peninsula's east coast dominates both mosaics, and the three areas in the north which have broken away (red circles on the 1997 mosaic) are the most obvious difference between the two images. The Larsen A ice shelf broke away within a very few days in January 1995. The break on the Larsen B shelf took place in March 1997, releasing a piece of shelf ice about 100 km long and 40 km wide. The long narrow spine of the peninsula at the left in both images is a zone of dry snow which appears black. The two arrows point to areas showing changes in snow accumulation or ablation. The breakup of the Larsen ice shelf, the beginning reduction in the size of the dry snow zone, and changes in snow accumulation or ablation are all indications of important changes in thermal conditions and moisture content.

These two mosaics were kindly provided by the Institute of Physical Geography (IPG) of Freiburg University, which is engaged in investigations of the stability and variability of climate parameters in the Antarctic.

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