Friday, April 14, 2017

Flotilla Of Icebergs Causing Problems For North Atlantic Ships

A North Atlantic iceberg a few years ago. This year, an
armada of them have disrupted shipping off the coast
 of Newfoundland, Canada
An unusually large number of icebergs have appeared off the coast of Newfoundland this month, causingn lots of problems - and dangers - for ships crossing the Atlantic Ocean.

Icebergs normally do float down from Greenland to the waters off the coast of Newfoundland in the spring and early summer.

But this year, there was a very abrupt, very big invading army of icebergs in the North Atlantic.

This is the area where the Titanic sank after hitting an iceberg in 1912.

On one day about a week ago there were about 450 icebergs in the Grand Banks waters, far more than there usually are this time of year - or any time of year for that matter, according to the Guardian. 

On average, there are about 80 icebergs lurking out there during April.

That means ships have been taking long detours to avoid the icebergs, which adds a day or more to a transatlantic crossing. And burns up more fuel, making the trip much more expensive. 

Many other cargo ships want to dock at St. John's Newfoundland, but have to slow to a crawl to avoid hitting icebergs. That also increases costs and dangers.

The number of icebergs in the North Atlantic usually peaks in May or June. The early and fast start to iceberg season raises worries the ocean off Newfoundland will really be clogged by these things in a few weeks.

Nobody knows for sure.

An "extreme ice season" is when more than 600 icebergs are spotted in a single season. It looks like this will be the fourth consecutive such season. They've kept track of these since around 1900.

The biggest recent year was 2014, when about 1,500 icebergs were spotted, the sixth highest number in a single year since 1900.

Most of the icebergs come from glaciers calving - their ends breaking off as the reach the ocean in Greenland.

This has always happened, of course, but there seems to be uptick in North Atlantic icenbergs in recent years.

Global warming could be making more icebergs calve in Greenland, sending the ice out into the North Atlantic.  There's mixed science on that: There's not a lot of good data yet on whether the icebergs from Greenland are really increasing or is this just unsual wind patterns bringing the bergs to Newfoundland? 

You need specific wind patterns to bring the icebergs into the North Atlantic. Some years, winds keep most of the icebergs away from shipping lanes.

Which means it's possible things will settle down out there in the North Atlantic.

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