An iceberg the size of Chicago is floating into international shipping lanes


You could also classify this thing as eight times the size of Manhattan, or half the size of London. It’s 70,000 hectares, which is roughly 700 million square meters, or 270 square miles. Six British scientists, led by Grant Bigg of the University of Sheffield, got an emergency $85,000 (U.S.) grant to study the iceberg and its movements; at issue is its proximity to shipping lanes, which could cause legitimate troubles for international commerce.

This sheet of ice started breaking away from the Pine Island Glacier in July. Pine Island comprises about 10 percent of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, is one of the faster-moving ice streams on the continent, and is extremely remote: it’s not claimed by any nation, and the nearest consistently-occupied research station is Rothera, which is 810 miles away. Here’s an idea of where it is on a map:

Depending on the iceberg’s movements, it could track into one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world — the Strait of Magellan, south of South America. That area is already difficult to navigate, and also includes the Drake Passage; both can be unpredictable and stormy (and narrow).

The Pine Island Glacier crack that caused this iceberg is visible from a high-altitude flight over the region. The footage is pretty cool:

This clip has a bit of a Star Wars feel to it (minus cool music):

And here’s more on the crack:

This site has a time sequence to the glacier rift, and this HuffPo article has some more context on its liquefying. So does this:

A lot of melt, indeed:

A lot of this goes back to climate change denial, which we’re also seeing in the news because of the Philippines. I utterly don’t understand how that side of the world works. People are here, they do things with and to the environment, and that changes it. That’s an utterly simplistic version of events, no question, but … how could one possibly argue that an over-populated Earth isn’t feeling the effects of too many people exerting themselves on its resources? The world is getting warmer. That’s why an ice sheet the size of Chicago may be headed for lower South American shipping lanes. There’s really no other reason, right?

Ted Bauer