The second largest iceberg ever with ice accumulated over tens of thousands of years is about break free.
The iceberg part of the Larsen C Ice Shelf of Antarctica will tower more than 600 feet (200 meters) above the ocean but that is only the tip of the iceberg.
It is the size of the island of Cyprus or Puerto Rico, the water it contains would flood the entire USA to a depth of half a foot!
As the drifting berg melts that vital mineral dust it contains will revive dying ocean pastures restoring them into blooming gardens of Eden repurposing a countless billion of tonnes of CO2 into new ocean life.
Satellite observations made by the European Space Agency (ESA), show that the new iceberg will tower 623 feet (190 meters) high over the ocean’s surface. It will hold 277 cubic miles (1,155 cubic kilometers) of ice – that’s more than a trillion tonnes of water. The surface area of the ice threatening to break off is around 2,548 square miles (6,600 square km), as large as Cypress, Puerto than the state of Delaware. Once it breaks free it will become on of the largest 100 islands on this blue planet.
It would take the flow of the Amazon River, the largest river on earth, more than 200 years to fill the berg. Add up the flow of every river on earth and it would still take 50+ years to fill it. That’s a lot of muddy water.
UPDATE: 12 July 2017 – Iceberg breaks free and is now fully adrift.
The important constituent of the gigantic iceberg is its iron. From the literature on the dust and iron that accumulates in Antarctic ice we can postulate that the ‘berg’ contains upward of a million tonnes of such vital dusty iron. That’s far in excess of what the late great John Martin once said was sufficient iron to replenish and restore ocean primary productivity that would repurpose humanities CO2 into new ocean life in a quantity to cool the planet sending us into another ice age.
Scientists observing the ice shelf say the iceberg could calve off within days or weeks, though the exact timeline is difficult to predict, nigh unto impossible for traditionally ultra-conservative ocean scientists. The Larsen C ice shelf sits along the Antarctic Peninsula which is the fourth-largest ice shelf in Antarctica. Researchers first noticed a giant crack, a rift, in the ice sheet on satellite imagery in 2014. By November 2016, the rift was 300 feet wide and 70 miles long. According to the European Space Agency’s most recent observations, the rift is now around 124 miles long. The rift is now 98% complete, less than 3 miles of ice remains holding the soon-to-be iceberg to the remains of the ice-shelf.
Giant icebergs from Antarctica and their iceberg dust account for a vast amount of carbon dioxide captured and stored in the Southern Ocean, far more than was previously believed say a paper published January 2016 in the scientific journal Nature Geoscience.
The research from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Geography studied the slow melting of giant icebergs, which contains an accumulation of aeolian, wind blown, dust that contains iron and other nutrients vital to ocean pasture health and productivity.
As the icebergs, both large and small, drift and melt in the seas around the frozen continent they leave broad green swaths of healthy vigorously growing ocean pasture phyto-plankton.
These vital ocean pastures often stretch for 1000 kilometers in length and 200 km across in the Southern Ocean. The iceberg-dust fed ocean pastures from single icebergs cover areas of 200,000 sq. km. or more. These verdant ocean pastures in turn sustain the rich ocean ecosystem feeding tiny krill, fish, great whales, and of course penguins.
Even in the world’s least dusty region wind blown dust sustains ocean pastures
The bounty of ice berg dust that sustains these vast and vital ocean pastures has accumulated while the ice from Antarctica has slowly over the course of centuries accumulated a tiny amount of dust every year. Antarctica while a continent of snow that only slowly compacts over centuries to become ice is actually one of the driest deserts in Earth, annual snowfall over most of the continent is equal to just a few centimeters per year and as for dustfall it is the farthest place on Earth from sources of windblown dust so it’s dustfall is the least of anywhere.
While the rate of accumulation is very slow ice and dust accumulate as time passes slowly. The age of the ice in giant icebergs is counted in millennia. Some parts of the Antarctic coastal ice is more than 2 million years old!
The researchers point out that of course these rich iceberg dust fed plankton blooms are responsible, via their photosynthesis, for absorbing enormous amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere that sustains the Southern Ocean ocean pasture ecosystem, feeds all of ocean life, and locks the ‘left overs’ for millennia into the frigid ocean abyss.
In the Iceberg carbon paper which focuses exclusively on ‘Giant Icebergs’, defined as greater than 18km in length, the authors note they make up half the ice floating in the Southern Ocean, with dozens present during the low ice season. The researchers calculated that the dusty iron replenishment effect of the icebergs in the normally iron-poor waters results in producing up to 20% of all the carbon buried in the Southern Ocean. The Southern ocean itself repurposes more than 10% of the global total carbon capture. If one harkens back to John Martin’s benchmarks these are indeed a very conservative set of numbers.
More realistically this single giant Larsen C iceberg is likely going to be responsible for repurposing not less than a many tens of billions of tonnes of the deadly CO2 that has accumulated in the world’s air and oceans over the past century. The berg will take many years to gradually melt as it offers its ‘time release’ iron ‘Geritol’ remedy to replenish and restore the ocean pastures of the Southern Ocean.
The effect of this friendly giant goes far beyond the simple carbon it’s restored ocean pastures remove from the air and ocean. Those ocean pastures and their plant life are the most powerful force on this blue planet in making clouds. It is the plankton cooling clouds that provide the surface of our tooo close to the Sun for comfort planet to catch sufficient shade to be in the Goldilock’s Zone, where it is neither too hot nor too cold for life but rather just right.
While this single giant alone may not be up to the task of saving the world from the harm we have done, the global climate change crisis will have a hard time shrugging off the blue carbon blessing about to happen. At the very least the gentle giant will teach us all a lesson, we now know how to save the world from the perils of climate change. We simply must restore the ocean pastures. Mother Nature is showing us the way.
Here’s a link to a very recent paper, spring 2017, addressing the increase of ocean primary productivity correllated to icebergs. http://www.the-cryosphere.net/11/707/2017/tc-11-707-2017.pdf