Loss of wayward ice shelf linked to climate change, scientists say

You know that part in Back to the Future where Michael J. Fox is holding his family photo, and the people in it are disappearing? And he feels faint, because he knows he’s next? That happened in a Canadian lab recently, only a lot more slowly — and without “Earth Angel” playing in the background. Scientists poring over satellite images realized that an ice shelf bigger than Manhattan had disappeared from its usual spot. Turns out it broke off from Canada’s remote Ellesmere Island, about 500 miles south of the North Pole, in August 2005. The rupture, which took only an hour, created a vast “ice island” that is now frozen into surrounding seas, but could menace shipping and oil-drilling areas next summer. Researchers say climate change is a major factor in the unusual break. “This is a dramatic and disturbing event,” said Warwick Vincent of Laval University. “We are crossing climate thresholds, and these may signal the onset of accelerated change ahead.” Got your bulletproof vest ready, Doc?