An iceberg the size of Greater London could hit shipping and wildlife, scientists warn

Scientists fear an iceberg the size of Greater London could soon hit shipping, fisheries and wildlife.

Researchers are currently tracking two large icebergs, one called the A81 – the size of Greater London – and an A76a, which is even larger. The latter is the size of Cornwall and its shape has been likened to an ironing board.

The A76a iceberg is long and thin, measuring over 3,000 square kilometers. A research team pursues him aboard the Royal Research Ship Discovery. A biological oceanographer, while inspecting it on its way from the Weddell Sea in Antarctica to the South Atlantic, recalls that it took “24 hours” to traverse it on the way home.

The A76a iceberg emerged from the Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf in May 2021

(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

“It was right on our way as we sailed home, so it took us 24 hours to avoid it,” Professor Geraint Tarling said BBC News.

“We got pretty close in some places and had a really good view of it. We collected water around the mountain using special uncontaminated pipes under the ship, so we have a lot of samples to study.”

The A76a iceberg emerged from the Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf in May 2021 after launching further south of its current location. It is now being carried north by currents and winds to the Falkland Islands and South Georgia, raising concerns that it may become bogged down in the shallow waters of the continental shelf.

It’s also possible that the iceberg could become trapped in a cluster of nearby islands known as Shag Rocks, both scenarios could have devastating consequences for both local wildlife and people.

A-76A is the largest remaining piece of what was once the largest iceberg

(NASA Earth Observatory/Lauren Dauphin)

Icebergs can topple over and lose their layers of snow, especially when they fall into the sea from larger masses, making them less visible to ships.

However, the International Ice Patrol was formed in 1914 following the loss of RMS Titanic in April 1912 and tasked with tracking icebergs. Reports are sent to ships twice a day, with computer plots of their location being continuously logged.

like dr Mark Belchier, Director of Fisheries and Environment at the Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, says this could impact smaller icebergs in the region.

The A76a iceberg emerged from the Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf in May 2021

(NASA Earth Observatory/Lauren Dauphin)

“Although the tourist season is coming to an end, our fisheries operate during the winter months so this may impact their operations.

“It has the potential to cause local problems for some of our wildlife, although this is likely to be less of a problem if it erupts in winter, when most animals can forage longer distances and don’t have to keep returning to land to feed young – or moved away from the island altogether,” says Professor Belchier BBC News.

A81 broke away from the Brunt Ice Shelf in January. Contrary to what scientists had predicted, this iceberg was expected to break off a few years ago.

According to the British Antarctic Survey, the London iceberg A81 is not linked to the climate crisis. The second mass to break off the Brunt Ice Shelf in two years has been described as “the most closely monitored ice shelf on Earth.”

Large icebergs can weigh up to a trillion tons, with the A23a currently taking the top spot as the world’s largest iceberg. With an area of ​​4,000 square kilometers, it was formed in 1986 from the Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf. Today it has established itself as an “ice island” in the south-central Weddell Sea. An iceberg the size of Greater London could hit shipping and wildlife, scientists warn

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