Antarctic glacier mission seeks global climate clues

Mon Jan 31, 2011 9:40am GMT
 

* Iceberg collision could affect global ocean circulation

* Scientists on mission to Antarctica to study aftermath

* Team studies impact of rising acidity on animals with shells

By David Fogarty, Climate Change Correspondent, Asia

SINGAPORE, Jan 31 (Reuters) - The breaking off of a Luxembourg-sized iceberg in Antarctica could affect ocean circulation patterns and be a harbinger of changes to come from global warming, scientists on a mission to the frozen continent say.

Last February, a 2,500 sq km (965 sq m) iceberg broke off from a giant floating tongue of ice from the Mertz Glacier after being rammed by an even larger iceberg.

The ice tongue, sticking out into the Southern Ocean, had acted like a dam, preventing sea ice from moving into a permanently open section of water to the west.

But now with the ice tongue gone due the collision, scientists fear it could trigger changes to the behaviour of a major part of global ocean circulation patterns that shift heat around the globe via myriad currents at the surface and along the bottom.

The area around the glacier tongue, since halved in length by the collision, and to the west are one of the few places around Antarctica where dense, salty water is formed and sinks to the depths of the ocean, said mission leader Steve Rintoul on Monday.   Continued...

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