Iceberg A-68: The Cause & Impacts

In light of the recent separation of a 6,000 sq km iceberg (Iceberg A-68) from Antarctica, more information has been released on the impacts icebergs have on the rest of the planet.

It was revealed that the shock split of the colossal iceberg may not, in fact, have been that shocking. Scientists have been aware of and were monitoring, the crack forming in the Larsen C Ice Shelf for over the past ten years. They revealed that the berg’s movement had accelerated since 2014, making an imminent calving more likely.

The Impacts

Icebergs drift and then melt, releasing millions of tonnes of freshwater directly into their new surroundings. This addition of freshwater alters the currents because the water density changes and the seawater becomes instantly cooler.

Rock fragments that melt out into the ocean become a feast of nutrients for algae and diatoms. However, the movement of icebergs also bars the inflow of krill. Animals such as penguins, seals and birds rely on krill as a food source and struggle when that source is threatened.

In terms of impacts on humans, bergs that are left to wander cause navigational hazards for ships and cruises, and so countries struggle to import and export goods.

The Cause

Some scientists believe that Iceberg A-68’s calving from the Larsen C Ice Shelf was a natural process that could not have been impacted by human behaviour.

However, others have dismissed these claims and warn that the increase in global temperatures as a result of human activity begets ice shelves melting ice and subsequently, more icebergs.

Adrian Luckman, a glaciologist at Swansea University, claimed: “Ice shelves are of particular scientific interest because they are susceptible both to atmospheric warming from above and ocean warming from below.” However, he continues to claim that, in this particular case, the event had been “over-simplistically linked” to global warming.