The largest ice shelf in the Arctic has broken up, Canada and the U.S. announced on Monday. The Ward Hunt Ice shelf has been a feature of the polar cap for at least 3,000 years. It has broken up as a result of the exceptionally hot summer of 2003, and will now turn into a large number of icebergs, which will drift south and melt over the next two or three years. The last time this happened, it was the beginning of an ice age that lasted for 2,000 years. It is believed that the disintegration of large amounts of Arctic ice approximately 15,000 years ago flooded the northern ocean with fresh water and destabilized the North Atlantic Oscillation, which led to a period of sudden climate change that returned most of Europe and the northern half of North America to much colder conditions for two thousand years. In the more distant past, such events have led to the beginning of new ice ages that have lasted upwards of a hundred thousand years.
Maggie Fox quotes researcher Derek Mueller as saying, "There's a regional trend in warming that cycles back 150 years. I am not comfortable linking it to global warming. It is difficult to tease out what is due to global warming and what is due to regional warming."
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