Wave breaking over Iceberg in the Southern Ocean, seen from the Greenpeace Esperanza, February 2, 2007. That’s a couple of petrels (seabirds) you can see flying by the lower part of the berg, gives a sense of scale.
This ice, was once snow that fell on the the continent of Antarctic. After thousands of years of being compacted by the crushing weight of more snow, this becomes ice, marching slowly towards the Southern Ocean, where it breaks off and becomes an iceberg. However, more and more of this ice is breaking away from Antarctica, with consequences for the global climate and sea level rise.
Antarctica is warming – last week, the US National Snow and Ice Data Center reported that “Antarctic sea ice extent appears to have broken the record low set last year.”
Note, this refers to sea ice – not ice in the sea. Sea ice is what is formed when the surface of the sea freezes. Salty ice. The ice in the iceberg is not salty, it’s created by snowfall.
A warming sea, with less sea ice, causes an even warmer sea, as dark water absorbs more sunlight. A warmer sea causes glaciers to melt from underneath, hastening their slippage towards the ocean.
They are processes are play in the Arctic and Antarctic that most of us are, to our detriment, unaware of. Some of these changes are irreversible in the short term.
That should not breed inaction. On the contrary. We need to go beyond improving our own personal behaviour and do what we can to push for change at a local, regional, national, international level to wean our global society off the burning of fossil fuels.