A giant iceberg, the size of Luxembourg, has broken free from Antarctica and according to scientists could potentially play havoc with weather patterns across the globe for years to come. The massive chunk of ice, more than 985 square-miles in size, broke free from the Mertz Glacier Tongue along the eastern coast of Antarctica on February 12 or 13, and moved out into a region of the Southern Ocean that is vital to the production of cold, salty water that helps circulate important ocean currents.
The new iceberg was created when an older one, labeled as B9B amongst researchers, slammed into an ice shelf, dislodging it from the continent. B9B had broken away back in 1987, and drifted around the region, but had mostly sat dormant until recently. Now, the two pieces of ice have merged to form this one giant berg which could have long lasting implications to global climate.
The newly formed iceberg, which is over 48-miles in length, has already drifted out into a part of the ocean known as a polynya. Polynyas are an area of the Southern Ocean where dense, extremely cold and salty water is produced. That “bottom water”, as it is known, sinks deep into the sea and creates the circulation that moves the various ocean currents around the globe. If the iceberg stays where it is at right now, it could cause a change in those circulations, having an effect on ocean currents worldwide, which will also change jet stream patterns and the movement of weather.
Best case scenario, the iceberg will either move back into the Antarctic coast or drift north into warmer waters, where it won’t cause any problems, but scientists say that isn’t likely. The good news is that it will probably be decades before the effects of the iceberg will be known, and I’m sure by then global warming will have kicked in, and we’ll be happy for the cooling effect this might bring.