August 11, 2010

Floating Ice Mass Could Threaten Canadian Coast

A massive iceberg has broken off from a glacier in Greenland and has started drifting south into shipping lanes and waters occupied by oil rigs, according to a recent Associated Press (AP) report.

On Tuesday, AP writer Karl Ritter noted that the iceberg, which detached from the Petermann glacier in Greenland last week, was "an island of ice more than four times the size of Manhattan."

He also noted that the 260 square kilometer mass could cause "untold damage" as it drifts south towards the Nares Strait and the coast of Ellsemere Island in Canada.

"In a worst case scenario, large chunks could reach the heavily trafficked waters where another Greenland iceberg sank the Titanic in 1912," Ritter claims, adding that it was "the biggest Arctic ice island in half a century."

In a year that has seen Russia fighting massive wildfires and experiencing 100-plus degree Fahrenheit temperatures--not to mention noteworthy heat waves in several states throughout the U.S.--some view the ice island as further evidence of global warming.

In fact, according to Ritter, Massachusetts Representative Edward Markey has suggested that the ice mound would make a good home for those still skeptical about the validity of climate change theory.

Scientific debate aside, the primary concern is the mass's trajectory. If the ice shelf reaches Nares Strait prior to the start of the winter freeze next month, ocean currents could carry it south along the east coast of Canada.

"That's where it starts to become dangerous," Mark Drinkwater of the European Space Agency (ESA) told the AP. After all, that would ultimately place it off the coast of Newfoundland, where it could potentially interfere with oil drilling and maritime trade, forcing rigs to relocate and ships to seek out new, potentially longer and more costly shipping routes.

That could take up to two years, though, according to the Canadian Ice Service.

Earlier this week, during a story on the Russian heatwaves, AFP reporter Anne Chaon noted that a U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) report released earlier this month confirmed that the planet's average temperature reached record highs during the first half of 2010.


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