A 13,680 square kilometre ice shelf has begun to collapse because of rapid climate change in a fast-warming region of Antarctica.

Satellite images of the Wilkins Ice Shelf breaking apart

Satellite images of the Wilkins Ice Shelf showed that a huge iceberg, 41 x 2.5 km, about seven times the size of Manhattan, has disintegrated from the ice shelf recently.

The Wilkins began its collapse on Feb 28 (2008); a narrow beam of intact ice, just 6 km wide, was protecting the remaining shelf from further breakup as of March 23.

[More stories on National Snow and Ice Data Center and British Antarctic Survey]

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The tiny Pacific islands nation of Kiribati declared the world’s largest marine protected area on Feb 14, a California-sized ocean wilderness that includes pristine reefs and eight coral atolls teeming with fish and birds.

The Phoenix Islands Protected Area, or PIPA, lies about halfway between Hawaii and Fiji. [AP]

PIPA was the world’s third largest marine protected area before the Government of Kiribati announced the expansion of the boundaries of the protected area on Jan 28, 2008… which now encompass an area of 410,500 square kilometres. [Phoenixisland]

The Taklamakan Desert in Xinjiang, China, was covered with snow after a heavy snowfall…

Desert snow in Taklamakan Desert
Desert snow (Image courtesy of Xinhuanet; captured on Jan 19, 2008)

As beauty as it seems… China is suffering from the worst winter weather in decades, which are affecting the lives of millions.

Red Tide is a common name for a phenomenon known as an algal bloom, an event in which estuarine, marine, or fresh water algae accumulate rapidly in the water column, or “bloom”. These algae, more specifically phytoplankton, are microscopic, single-celled protists, plant-like organisms that can form dense, visible patches near the water’s surface.

Certain species of phytoplankton contain photosynthetic pigments that vary in color from green to brown to red, and when the algae are present in high concentrations, the water appears to be discolored or murky, varying in color from white to almost black, normally being red or brown.

Red tide at La Jolla California
Red Tide caused by Dinoflagellates off the Scripps Institution of Oceanography Pier, La Jolla California (Image courtesy of P. Alejandro Díaz)

Not all algal blooms are dense enough to cause water discoloration, and not all discolored waters associated with algal blooms are red. Additionally, red tides are not typically associated with tidal movement of water, hence the preference among scientists to use the term algal bloom. [Wikipedia]

Spectacular picture of mobula rays leaping out of the ocean; taken in the Sea of Cortez at the southern end of the Gulf of Mexico.

Leaping mobula ray in Sea of Cortez
Leaping mobula rays (More pics at Telegraph; hat tip to Neatorama)

Photos of lovely sunlight beaming through thick leafs of some dense forest…

Sunlight in the forest

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An amazing picture of more than 10,000 king penguins standing shoulder to shoulder at St Andrew’s bay on the island of South Georgia (near Antarctica), preparing to breed.

King penguins on shore of South Georgia
Army of penguins (Image courtesy of Dailymail, via Spluch)

The king penguins lay their eggs in late November, with a peak around mid-December. They don’t build nests – instead the male and female of each mating couple take it in turns to incubate a single egg on their feet over the course of two months.

Mount Etna, Europe’s tallest and most active volcano, spews lava on the southern Italian island of Sicily September 4. There was no danger to villages lower down on the slopes, officials said.

Mount Etna eruption
Mount Etna erupts (Image courtesy of Chinadaily)

Mount Etna (also known as Mongibeddu in Sicilian) is an active volcano on the east coast of Sicily. It is the largest active volcano in Europe, and is one of the most active volcanoes in the world. The volcano is not generally regarded as being dangerous, and thousands of people live on its slopes and in the surrounding areas.

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