October 3, 2006

Giant Swell Destroys Far Distant Iceberg

CHICAGO (UPI) -- U.S. scientists say a severe storm in the Gulf of Alaska in October 2005 generated an ocean swell that six days later broke apart a giant iceberg.

The team of scientists -- led by Professors Douglas MacAyeal of the University of Chicago and Emile Okal at Northwestern University -- said the swell was so powerful it destroyed the iceberg near the coast of Antarctica, more than 8,300 miles away.

"We are reporting on a unique kind of seismological signal picked up by seismometers we deployed on the iceberg, which is generated by sea swell when it rocks the iceberg," said Okal, professor in geological sciences at Northwestern.

The study raises the possibility that an increase in storms driven by climate change could affect far-flung parts of the globe.

"One of the things we're debating in the world right now is whether global warming might increase the storminess in the oceans," said MacAyeal, professor in geophysical sciences at the University of Chicago. "The question we then pose is: Could global storminess have an influence on the Antarctic ice sheet that had never been thought of?"

The research appears in the current issue of the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

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