Ice island the size of London threatens rigs
A two-million-ton iceberg will be on the move in the Arctic this summer thanks to global warming, putting busy shipping lanes in danger
Sunday 28 January 2007
An enormous iceberg the size of central London is causing alarm among scientists, who predict that it could be on the move in a matter of months, posing a potential threat to shipping and oil rigs in Arctic waters.
The two-million-ton, 25-square-mile block of ice is part of the Ayles ice shelf. Its existence only recently came to light thanks to satellite images from Nasa. Lying 30 miles off Canada's Ellesmere Island, it will be on the move in the summer, as temperatures rise and break up the surrounding pack ice.
"The potential issue here is that the ice island could go into the oil rigs in the Beaufort Sea," said Dr Luke Copland, a specialist in ice masses based at the University of Ottawa. "This hasn't happened in the past, but it could happen."
The ice could move several hundred miles over the summer, taking it closer to busy shipping routes for oil and gas. "If it ever came on a collision course with an oil rig, it is unlikely that we would be able to do much to stop it," said Dr Copland. "Maybe you would have to consider aerial bombardment to break it up, or use lots of tugs to try and move it, but it would be a lot of ice to move."
Tugs are already on permanent standby along Canada's coastline to lasso stray icebergs and tow them away from busy shipping routes, but researchers say controlling the main mass, dubbed "ice island", would be a completely different proposition.
Scientists blame global warming. "This is the most dramatic climate-related event we've seen in recent times in the high Arctic," said Professor Warwick Vincent of Laval University in Quebec. "We think it was associated with record warm temperatures and record minimum sea ice. Of course these days, every year sets a new record. The ice island has already moved 50km [30 miles] to the west, and could eventually end up in shipping and oil-exploration areas."
Scientists in Canada and the US have stepped up their monitoring of the ice as they attempt to predict where and when it is likely to go next. A team of researchers will visit the ice island in March, before it starts to move in the summer. It is thought most likely to follow a clockwise current in the Arctic Ocean, known as the Beaufort Gyre, that could see it reach the eastern coast of Greenland in 10 years. The warmer waters of the Atlantic would prevent it from travelling further south.
Climate change is altering the region's landscape. The Ayles ice shelf, thought to be 4,000 years old, was one of just six remaining on Ellesmere Island, Canada's most northern landmass. The ice shelves there have shrunk by up to 90 per cent in the past century - a loss of 3,500 square miles of ice, along with an unknown number of life forms.
Experts now claim the next 10 years could see massive changes in sea ice in the region. Researchers from the Canadian Ice Service have already seen average temperatures for the past few months 7C higher than they would normally expect.
"There is a lot more fracturing of the sea ice than we'd normally see at this time of year," said Dr Copland. "When you look at Arctic sea ice, it has been reducing dramatically over the past 30 years and it is hard to explain why that would happen without invoking climate warming."
Greenland’s dark snow may start global warming ‘feedback loop’
Climate change march: Investors pledge to take their money out of firms blamed for climate change
Climate change means rate of growth of trees has gone up by 77%
Badger found shot in the abdomen is 'proof' that cull is inhumane, activists say
Leading climate scientists call on religious leaders to help save the environment
- 1 All Blacks Aaron Cruden misses New Zealand flight after drinking session, has brilliant excuse
- 2 Kim Kardashian 'nude photos' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence scandal
- 3 'F*ck it, I quit': TV reporter Charlo Greene quits live on air in spectacular fashion
- 4 Alicia Keys leaks nude photo 'to create a kinder and more peaceful world'
- 5 Clothes store Joy angers mental health campaigners with Twitter exchange on bipolar disorders
Scotland could still declare independence – even without referendum, says Alex Salmond
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
Scottish referendum results: Cross-party consensus collapses amid Tory-Labour spat on the 'English question'
Hilary Mantel 'should be investigated by police' over Margaret Thatcher assassination story, says Lord Bell
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Plebgate MP Andrew Mitchell called officer a 'little s**t', claim court documents 'exposing ex-Chief Whip's 'record of abusing police'
£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...
£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...
£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...
£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...