Mega-Icebergs go to South Georgia Island to Die


Photo: NASA, Public domain
R.I.P.
Some things are so massive that they can only be appreciated from the vantage point of space. Many of the giant icebergs that are breaking off Antarctica are drifting Northward (is there any other direction that you can go to from the South pole?) and getting stuck on the shallow continental shelf that surrounds South Georgia Island. These icebergs are so large, that when they melt, the fresh water that they release in the ocean is enough to alter the local marine ecosystems.
Photo: NASA, Public domain

This is the same image as above, but without any cropping. You can see an even bigger version here. It was taken by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) piece of equipment that is on board both the Terra (EOS AM) and Aqua (EOS PM) satellites.

The BBC writes:

Professor Eugene Murphy, from the British Antarctic Survey, says mega-bergs have important biological impacts.

[...] negative consequence, especially in the case of A-38. Some of the data collected by researchers across the territory leads the team to think the berg's great bulk may have acted as a barrier to the inflow of krill.

These shrimp-like creatures follow the same currents as the bergs and are a vital source of food to many of the island's animals, including its penguins, seals and birds.

In years when there are few krill at South Georgia, the predators that eat them will suffer poor breeding success. In really bad years, the beaches of South Georgia can be littered with dead pups and chicks, Professor Murphy says.

I wonder how far North one of these giants could drift before completely melting. Something of that size would probably take months to melt, so I imagine it could be quite far, though that will be almost entirely dependent on the sea currents.

Via NASA, BBC
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Tags: Oceans

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