For the first time in 12,000 years, open water sits in a region of eastern Antarctica, after the rapid melting of a giant piece of floating ice roughly the size of Rhode Island.
Scientists agree that the quick disintegration of the Larsen B ice shelf, which has existed since the Ice Age, is a remarkable geological phenomenon. What they disagree about is whether the melting is the result of a global climate change or whether it is just part of the natural cycle of melting and freezing that ice masses go through.
This hour, we examine the significance of the major Antarctic meltdown. Could this finally be the smoking gun that global warming heralds have been looking for? And even if climate change is not to blame: could all of the worldwide glacier melting spell doom for the world's coastlines and coastal cities?
David Vaughan, Glaciologist at The British Antarctic Survey
Michael Oppenheimer, professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton University
Ted Scambos, Researcher at the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado
This program aired on March 21, 2002.