HC Deb 12 February 1997 vol 290 cc235-6W
Sir Michael Shersby

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will call for a report from the commissioner of the British Antarctic Territory on the rift that has appeared in the Larsen B ice shelf; what assessment he has made of the extent to which it indicates changing global temperatures and the possibility of rising sea levels; and if he will make a statement. [15236]

Sir Nicholas Bonsor

Additional rifts on the Larsen ice shelf have been identified in the past two years. However, the most recent scientific expedition to the area, in November 1996, found nothing extraordinary about these rifts.

The British Antarctic Survey interpretation is that the retreat of ice shelves around the Antarctic peninsula is due to local atmospheric warming. This is not necessarily correlated with temperature trends elsewhere in Antarctica or globally. If local warming continues, it is almost certain that another part of the Larsen ice shelf will disappear.

Since the ice shelf is already floating, and therefore displacing the equivalent of its own mass in water, there would be no rise in sea level even if it were to disintegrate and melt.

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