Huge ice­berg hits Antarc­tica, slic­ing off sec­ond ice­berg

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS -

SYD­NEY, Aus­tralia (AP) — A mas­sive ice­berg struck Antarc­tica, dis­lodg­ing an­other gi­ant block of ice from a glacier, Aus­tralian and French sci­en­tists said Fri­day.

The two ice­bergs are drift­ing to­gether about 62 to 93 miles (100 to 150 kilo­me­tres) off east­ern Antarc­tica fol­low­ing the col­li­sion on Feb. 12 or 13, said Aus­tralian Antarc­tic Divi­sion glaciol­o­gist Neal Young.

“It gave it a pretty big nudge,” Young said of the 60-mile (97-kilo­me­tre) -long ice­berg, about the size of Lux­em­bourg, that col­lided with the gi­ant float­ing Mertz Glacier and shaved off a new ice­berg. “They are now float­ing right next to each other.”

The new ice­berg is 48 miles (78 kilo­me­tres) long and about 24 miles (39 kilo­me­tres) wide and holds roughly the equiv­a­lent of a fifth of the world’s an­nual to­tal wa­ter us­age, Young told The As­so­ci­ated Press.

The ice­berg that hit the Mertz Glacier is called B9B and had bro­ken free from an­other part of Antarc­tica in 1987. It has been nuz­zling and shift­ing along­side the Mertz for about 18 years be­fore this month’s dis­lodg­ing, said Benoit Le­gresy, a re­searcher with the LE­GOS lab­o­ra­tory for geophysical stud­ies in Toulouse, France.

“It was a slow process,” Le­gresy said. He said B9B was “sit­ting there, it must have been pushed and pulled by the cur­rent ev­ery day and used as a ham­mer to bang on the other one by the ocean cur­rents.”

The dis­lodg­ing occurred be­cause of the ice­berg’s lat­est loca- tion and wa­ter that had warmed dur­ing Antarc­tica’s sum­mer, leav­ing less sea ice, Le­gresy said.

Some ex­perts are con­cerned about the ef­fect of the mas­sive dis­place­ment of ice on the ice-free wa­ter next to the glacier, which is im­por­tant for ocean cur­rents, while oth­ers are less con­cerned.

Ex­perts say this type of ice­berg calv­ing hap­pens from time to time and th­ese are not record large ice­bergs.

This area of wa­ter had been kept clear be­cause of the glacier, said Steve Rintoul, a lead­ing cli­mate ex­pert. With part of the glacier gone, the area could fill with sea ice, which would dis­rupt the sink­ing abil­ity of the dense and cold wa­ter.

This sink­ing wa­ter is what spills into ocean basins and feeds the global ocean cur­rents with oxy­gen, Rintoul ex­plained.

As there are only a few ar­eas in the world where this oc­curs, a slow­ing of the process would mean less oxy­gen sup­plied into the deep cur­rents that feed the oceans.

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