A group of researchers in the UK have been given an emergency fund to enable them to track a huge drifting iceberg that could threaten shipping channels.
The grant totals £50000 and will go towards a six-month long project designed to track and predict the iceberg’s movement as it drifts away from Antarctica through the Southern Ocean.
The berg is thought to be around 700 square kilometres in size and recent images show there are several kilometres of open water between it and the Pine Island Glacier it broke away from back in July
The group of scientists from the University of Sheffield and University of Southampton will use satellites such as the German TerraSAR-X to track the berg’s movement.
The principal investigator on the project, Grant Bigg from the University of Sheffield, said, “From the time it had been found that the crack had gone all the way across in July, it had stayed iced-in because it was still winter (in Antarctica).
“But in the last couple of days, it has begun to break away and now a kilometre or two of clear water has developed between it and the glacier.
“It often takes a while for bergs from this area to get out of Pine Island Bay but once they do that they can either go eastwards along the coast or they can… circle out into the main part of the Southern Ocean.”
Professor Bigg and his team have tracked one such iceberg heading through the Drake Passage – an area of water between Antarctica and South America. If this supersized iceberg also followed this trajectory, it could have a serious impact on international shipping lanes.
On top of simply tracking the movements of the iceberg, the £50000 grant will go a long way towards helping Professor Bigg and his team pro-actively predict its movement through the Southern Ocean, “Part of the project is to try to simulate what we think the berg might do, given the… wind fields being experiencing in the region recently.
If the berg did appear to be moving towards busy shipping lanes, a warning could be issued through the services of a number of specialised ice hazard agencies.