Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Biggest Iceberg In 25 Years

A piece of ice larger than Manhattan has broken off the Arctic ice shelf at the northern edge of Ellesmere Island (the very northernmost part of Canada, next to Greenland). (zoom in a bit)

This is significant not only as a sign of global warming but also because if it ever gets out into open water it could cause serious trouble. BBC has the details: Huge Arctic ice break discovered
Scientists have discovered that an enormous ice shelf broke off an island in the Canadian Arctic last year, in what could be sign of global warming.

It is said to be the largest break in 25 years, casting an ice floe with an area of 66 sq km (25 square miles).

It occurred in August 2005 but was only recently detected on satellite images.

The chunk of ice bigger than Manhattan could wreak havoc if it moves into oil drilling regions and shipping lanes next summer, scientists warned.
Why next summer? It's too cold at the moment; our ice is caught in a jam.
"The Arctic is all frozen up for the winter and it's stuck in the sea ice about 50km (30 miles) off the coast," said Luke Copland, an assistant professor at the University of Ottawa.

"The risk is that next summer, as that sea ice melts, this large ice island can then move itself around off the coast and one potential path for it is to make its way westward toward the Beaufort Sea where there is lots of oil and gas exploration, oil rigs and shipping."
No offshore oil rig is a match for this iceberg. Nor is any shipping I know of.
The ice break was initially undetected due to the remoteness of the northern coast of Ellesmere island, which is about 800km (500 miles) from the North Pole.

Satellite images showed the 15km (9mile) crack, then the ice floating about 1km (0.6 miles) from the coast within about an hour, said Mr Copland, a specialist in glaciers and ice masses.

"You could stand at one edge and not see the other side, and for something that large to move that quickly is quite amazing," he said.
A piece of ice larger than Manhattan moving a kilometer in an hour? Quite amazing indeed!!

This page from the BBC has more details, including an interactive graphic showing the extent of Arctic Sea ice in recent winters.