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Ice shelf the size of Rome collapses in Antarctica satellite images show

The Conger ice shelf collapsed as temperatures soared in Antarctica
Sentinel-1A image shows an iceberg that broke off from the Conger ice shelf Photo: US National Ice Centre

Sentinel-1A image shows an iceberg that broke off from the Conger ice shelf Photo: US National Ice Centre

Zoe Tidman©

An ice shelf around the size of Rome has collapsed in Antarctica, which has experienced days of record temperatures, according to satellite images.

Scientists said “virtually all” of what was remaining of the Conger ice shelf broke off into an iceberg last week.

It comes as Antarctica saw temperatures 4C warmer than usual, with new records set and one site well above melting point.

The Arctic has also been experiencing much hotter temperatures than normal, sparking alarm from scientists who say it is “unusual” for both poles to be melting at the same time.

As temperatures soared in Antarctica last week, scientists discovered the Conger ice shelf had collapsed.

The US National Ice Centre said an iceberg had calved from the shelf in the Wilkes Land Region. It had a dimension of 1,200 sq km – nearly the size of Rome.

This iceberg “comprised virtually all that remained of the Conger ice shelf”, the US scientists said.

It sat next to another ice shelf which had calved the week before.

The US National Ice Centre said the Conger ice shelf calving had happened by Thursday last week.

The following day, the Antarctic continent as a whole on Friday was 4.8C warmer than a baseline temperature between 1979 and 2000, according to the University of Maine’s Climate Reanalyser, based on US National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration weather models.

Walt Meier, an ice scientist from the National Snow and Ice Data Centre in Colorado in the US, said it was unusual to see this level of heating over an already warmed-up average.

In February, the Antarctic sea ice extent – the area of ice that covers the ocean at a given time – reached a record low at 830,000 square miles, which was nearly 30 per cent below average.

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