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Current Affairs

Antarctic iceberg A68a

Date: 28 December 2020 Tags: Miscellaneous

Issue

The giant iceberg A68, the biggest block of free-floating ice from Antarctica has been drifting in the Atlantic Ocean since 2017.

 

Background

The iceberg was propelled into the South Atlantic Ocean and since then it has been drifting towards the remote sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia.

 

Details

  • There are fears about the impact the iceberg could have on the island’s abundant wildlife.

  • Icebergs travel with ocean currents and either get caught up in shallow waters or ground themselves.

  • A68a iceberg is roughly the size of the US state of Delaware and split off from Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf in July 2017.

  • Since then it has been drifting towards the remote island of South Georgia, which is a British Overseas Territory (BOT).

  • On its journey, smaller icebergs have calved from the iceberg and right now, the biggest section of the iceberg is called A68a.

  • The US National Ice Centre (USNIC) confirmed that two new icebergs calved from A68a and were large enough to be named and tracked. They are called A68E and A68F.

  • The iceberg’s calving is thought to be a natural event and not a result of climate change. Some models predict that a warming Antarctica in the future could mean more calving events as ice shelves and glaciers retreat.

Impact of the iceberg on island ecosystem

  • The fear is that if the iceberg grounds itself near the island, it could cause disruption to the local wildlife that forages in the ocean.

  • If the iceberg gets stuck near the island, it could mean that penguins and seals will have to travel farther in search of food, and for some this might mean that they don’t get back in time to prevent their offspring from starving to death.

  • On the other hand, there are some positives of an iceberg being stuck in the open ocean, since icebergs carry dust which fertilises ocean plankton, which draws up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.