Giant iceberg spotted south of Australia

December 9, 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: Giant Antarctic iceberg heads towards N.Zealand: experts

Related Stories

Icebergs head from Antarctica for New Zealand

November 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

November 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

December 1, 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

July 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 going to get hit ...

Iceberg crashes into Drygalski Ice Tongue

April 8, 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

Afromontane forests and climate change

January 17, 2019

In the world of paleoecology, little has been known about the historical record of ecosystems in the West African highlands, especially with regard to glacial cycles amidst a shifting climate and their effects on species ...

15 comments

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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
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.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.