Giant iceberg spotted south of Australia

Dec 09, 2009
A NASA satellite image of iceberg B17B (C), some 19 kilometres (12 miles) long, floating southwest of the West Australian coast, between Australia and Antarctica.

A monster iceberg nearly twice the size of Hong Kong island has been spotted drifting towards Australia in what scientists Wednesday called a once-in-a-century event.

Australian glaciologist Neal Young pinpointed the slab, which is some 19 kilometres (12 miles) long and about 1,700 kilometres south of the country, using satellite imagery.

He said he was not aware of such a large iceberg being found in the area since the days when 19th century clipper ships sailed the trade route between Britain and Australia.

"I don't recall any mention of one for a long, long time," Young, of the Australian Antarctic Division and the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre, told AFP.

"I'm guessing you would probably have to go back to the times of the clipper ships."

Young said the iceberg measured about 140 square kilometres (54 square miles). Hong Kong island's surface area is about 80 square kilometres.

The glaciologist said the iceberg carved off the Antarctic about 10 years ago and had been slowly floating round the icy continent before taking the unusual route north.

He said the "very, very big" iceberg was originally about 400 square kilometres but then split into two smaller pieces.

"This one has survived in the open ocean for about a year," he said. "In that time it's slowly been coming up to the north and north east in the general direction of Western Australia."

The finding comes after two large icebergs were spotted further east, off Australia's Macquarie Island, followed by more than 100 smaller ice chunks heading towards New Zealand.

Young described the icebergs as uncommon, but said they could become more frequent if sea temperatures rise through global warming.

A long tongue of land that points northwards towards South America, the Antarctic peninsula has been hit by greater warming than almost any other region on Earth.

Scientists say that in the past 50 years, Antarctic temperatures have risen by 2.5 degrees Celsius (4.5 degrees Fahrenheit), around six times the global average.

(c) 2009 AFP

Explore further: Excavated ship traced to Colonial-era Philadelphia

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Icebergs head from Antarctica for New Zealand

Nov 24, 2009

(AP) -- Ships in the south Pacific Ocean have been alerted that hundreds of icebergs believed to have split off Antarctic ice shelves are drifting north toward New Zealand, officials said Tuesday.

Ships warned about icebergs headed for New Zealand

Nov 25, 2009

(AP) -- Ships are on alert and maritime authorities are monitoring the movements of hundreds of menacing icebergs drifting toward New Zealand in the southern Pacific Ocean, officials said.

Winds drive icebergs away from New Zealand

Dec 01, 2009

(AP) -- Strong westerly winds in the southern Pacific Ocean have driven scores of icebergs originally headed toward New Zealand to the east, away from the country, an oceanographer said Tuesday.

Iceberg Scour Affects Biodiversity

Jul 17, 2008

Antarctic worms, sea spiders, urchins and other marine creatures living in near-shore shallow habitats are regularly pounded by icebergs. New data suggests this environment along the Antarctic Peninsula is ...

Iceberg crashes into Drygalski Ice Tongue

Apr 08, 2006

An iceberg, C-16, rammed into the Drygalski Ice Tongue, a large sheet of glacial ice in Antarctica, breaking off a huge block and forming a new iceberg.

Recommended for you

Excavated ship traced to Colonial-era Philadelphia

41 minutes ago

Four years ago this month, archeologists monitoring the excavation of the former World Trade Center site uncovered a ghostly surprise: the bones of an ancient sailing ship. Tree-ring scientists at Columbia ...

Tropical tempests take encouragement from environment

1 hour ago

Mix some warm ocean water with atmospheric instability and you might have a recipe for a cyclone. Scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Atlanta Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory ...

User comments : 23

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Buyck
2.7 / 5 (10) Dec 09, 2009
"called a once-in-a-century event." Sorry in the near future it will be once in a decade event or even less. I hope that "the Kopenhagen top" will make some important decisions.
Parsec
2.5 / 5 (13) Dec 09, 2009
I wonder what the AGW denier crowd will make of this. Probably call the whole thing a hoax made up for the media. Or claim that since it happened a century ago that proves that the climate is cooling.

Whatever it is it will be interesting. Idiocy is always fun to watch.
gwrede
2.9 / 5 (11) Dec 09, 2009
Quick, stick a flag on it, clear an airstrip, and start selling tourist trips!! Make a fortune! Then later sell it to the Arabs for drinking water.
Doschx
3.5 / 5 (11) Dec 09, 2009
OH NOES! Who would have ever thought that a complex system like a life-bearing planet could experience changes in temperature!? It's all happened before, and will again. That being said, humanity might be able to influence it a bit, but I think what we need are adaptations to the conditions, not the conditions forced to adapt to us.
Velanarris
3.2 / 5 (13) Dec 09, 2009
I wonder what the AGW denier crowd will make of this. Probably call the whole thing a hoax made up for the media. Or claim that since it happened a century ago that proves that the climate is cooling.

Whatever it is it will be interesting. Idiocy is always fun to watch.


I hope you enjoy this response.

Icebergs are not a cause for concern and without some sort of tie to global warming hypothesis, completely unrelated to AGW.

Now if you'd like to try to tease how an errant iceberg is related to carbon emissions, go right ahead. Make sure to show your work.
otto1923
3.3 / 5 (9) Dec 09, 2009
"I'm guessing you would probably have to go back to the times of the clipper ships."
So they were more common some 200 years ago? That would mean the earth is cooling off?
SincerelyTwo
Dec 09, 2009
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
RayCherry
4 / 5 (4) Dec 09, 2009
Insufficient evidence either way. Cutters could never accurately measure a moving object in the water from sea level, so we don't have empirical evidence that such iceburgs, (of this volume), were in fact 'common' two or three hundred years ago. This is the first in living memory, and the first of its dimension to travel so far from its origins and get recorded by satelite imagery.

The question of it's volume is less interesting that the current that has moved it to rapidly from the point where it broke off. Larger iceburgs have broken away in the past few years, (one the size of Newfoundland just a couple of years ago), but this one has travelled quickly and survived the warmer waters as a result.

What's new about that? Indicating a possible new (or recovering) fast, cold water current?
nuge
4 / 5 (9) Dec 09, 2009
"I'm guessing you would probably have to go back to the times of the clipper ships."
So they were more common some 200 years ago? That would mean the earth is cooling off?


NO, that is clearly NOT what the guy was saying. He never said they were COMMON 200 years ago, just that that's how long it has probably been since there was a report of one like this. Honestly, do you people even read the articles before you post this garbage?
NotAsleep
3.3 / 5 (7) Dec 09, 2009
I wonder what the AGW denier crowd will make of this. Probably call the whole thing a hoax made up for the media. Or claim that since it happened a century ago that proves that the climate is cooling.


Are you implying that this is clear, irrefutable evidence of global warming? While I'm not a "disbeliever", I also er on the side of caution when it comes to bashing people with opposing opinions. Idiocy is creating a fact based on conjecture
christian_physicist
3 / 5 (9) Dec 09, 2009
Don't conflate independent concepts Parsec. Plenty of people who believe that man's contribution to global temperatures is minimal still believe that temperatures are rising - for purely natural reasons. There are many facets to this issue.

You're also doing bad science yourself. You have no idea if this iceberg would have still broken off if temperatures were one degree cooler. No idea. You cannot attribute any one single event, with certainty, to global warming.

jimbo92107
4.6 / 5 (9) Dec 09, 2009
I found a ping-pong ball, therefore the world is about to be inundated with ping-pong balls.

Big iceberg. Small sample size.

Global climate change is an entirely different matter. Climatologists have been accumulating data on climate for many years. That huge pile of data points to some disturbing changes that are already underway and appear to be increasing at an accelerating rate. To ignore such information is worse than reckless, it is begging nature to press the Smite button on humanity.

It's as if the proverbial frog in the tea pot received an email saying, "You better jump out of that tea pot, it's heating up." And the frog says, "Nah, feels fine to me."

Good luck, Froggy...
CarolinaScotsman
2.3 / 5 (3) Dec 12, 2009
Uh... wouldn't it require cooler water temperatures for the ice to survive longer?
fixer
1 / 5 (1) Dec 13, 2009
Ever stick a bit of putty on a ball then wonder why the ball moves?
The Earth spins in equilibrium because it is balanced like a top.
Huge masses moving into places they shouldn't be are NOT good news.
PinkElephant
not rated yet Dec 14, 2009
Uh... wouldn't it require cooler water temperatures for the ice to survive longer?


Who (apart from you) said the ice is surviving longer?
Velanarris
not rated yet Dec 14, 2009
Ever stick a bit of putty on a ball then wonder why the ball moves?
The Earth spins in equilibrium because it is balanced like a top.
Huge masses moving into places they shouldn't be are NOT good news.

You really need to get a sense of scale. That iceberg is less than one billionth of the weight of the Earth, you're in no danger of precessional displacement due to a single iceberg of slightly larger than average size. Especially when it simply displaces the water weight that is already present.
fixer
1 / 5 (2) Dec 14, 2009
Not so, it also subtracts it's mass from where it should be.
Add that to the rest of the ice that has moved from the pole towards the equator and you have a failing scenario.
As well as precession you also have to consider nutation, and the fact that the Earths crust is relatively thin.
You will be aware that the crust floats on magma, so the iceberg is a much larger factor than you think.
PinkElephant
not rated yet Dec 14, 2009
@fixer

from what I understand the iceberg in question wasn't originally land-bound ice. It was part of an ice shelf, which floated on water.

Also, Velanarris is correct that the small size and transient nature of this event won't have any detectable influence on Earth's rotation.

I can see where you might be noticing a rather more long-term problem (e.g. what happens if all/most of Antarctica and Greenland melted off into the oceans) -- but we are unlikely to see anything like that within the next couple of centuries. Granted, loss of ice shelves would be just the first step in that process, and so these "record" calving events might well be harbingers of other things to come.
fixer
1 / 5 (1) Dec 15, 2009
I certainly hope it will be a couple of centuries, the last comparable event (9600 bc)took out 95% of the population!
The "time of the wandering sun" is a legend that exists on every continent and is not to be sneered at, AGW subscribers take note.
PinkElephant
not rated yet Dec 15, 2009
No, nothing that extreme either can or will happen. The Earth itself spins like a huge gyroscope; the stuff that happens on its surface is completely insignificant compared to the bulk of the planet. Consider that it's more than 6,000 km from where you're standing just to reach the center of the planet: and most of the stuff along the way is far denser and heavier than anything you'll find on the surface, and it's all spun up and keeps going pretty much no matter what. Plus, the Moon adds a stabilizing influence that controls the Earth's precession drift over ultra-long periods (we're talking millions of years here.)

Still, for us surface-dwellers mass-melting glaciers do spell a kind of peril: rising sea levels, and a jump in volcanism/earthquakes due to rebounding crust. Not, however, for another century or two.
Velanarris
1 / 5 (1) Dec 15, 2009
I certainly hope it will be a couple of centuries, the last comparable event (9600 bc)took out 95% of the population!
The "time of the wandering sun" is a legend that exists on every continent and is not to be sneered at, AGW subscribers take note.

What in the hell are you talking about?
fixer
not rated yet Dec 15, 2009
Studies in the 60's on magnetic anomolies in the earths crust demonstrated that the crust has "skidded" around the magma ball at least twice, as shown by the magnetic field imprinted in the geology pointing many degrees from north.
Modern rock has its magnetic field north and south as expected, but older rock points to a magnetic north about 2000 miles from it's current position.
I have too much time on my hands, I read a lot.
Keep an open mind regarding place names, but have a look here. http://www.flem-ath.com/.
This may be a bit of artistic licence, but it is based on solid research.
PinkElephant
not rated yet Dec 15, 2009
No fixer, that's not a signature of the crust "skidding". It is a signature of magnetic pole moving. The magnetic field of our planet is not a constant entity. There have been numerous times in the past when the polarity of the field reversed. The magnetic poles move all the time. Even now, there are indications that a magnetic field reversal may be under way.
fixer
not rated yet Dec 15, 2009
In order for the poles to have moved, there must be a difference in position between the magnetic pole generated by the magma and it's position on the surface.
If it drifts slowly then it would be measurable over a couple of hundred years and we have the data from maps to show this isn't so.
No so true with portolans however, these ancient maps show things differently and the geology agrees with them.
Polarity in rock means that poles have been fixed for millenia, If this no longer lines up with modern polar positions then this can only mean a sudden and violent shift.