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Posted by on Apr 1, 2020 in TellMeWhy |

Where Do Icebergs Go?

Where Do Icebergs Go?

Icebergs are huge masses of ice which have broken away from glaciers in the Arctic and Antarctic regions. Once they form, icebergs are moved by winds and currents, drifting either north or south toward Earth’s equator, where they eventually melt. They may get stuck locally by the ocean bottom or even by surrounding sea ice. They gradually melt away as the upper part is warmed by the sun and the lower part by the warmer waters into which they drift.

When an iceberg reaches warm waters, the new climate attacks it from all sides. On the iceberg surface, warm air melts snow and ice into pools called melt ponds that can trickle through the iceberg and widen cracks. At the same time, warm water laps at the iceberg edges, melting the ice and causing chunks of ice to break off. On the underside, warmer waters melt the iceberg from the bottom up.

The North Atlantic and the cold waters surrounding Antarctica are home to most of the icebergs on Earth.An iceberg may be as much as 250 feet high, although only one-ninth is above the surface of the sea. It can be a hazard to shipping. The worst disaster was to a British passenger liner, the Titanic. This fine ship was thought to be unsinkable, because she had a double skin and 15 watertight compartments. In April, 1912, the liner struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic. Despite her double skin and watertight compartments she was holed and quickly sank. Of the 2,207 people on board, more than 1,500 were drowned.

Ice acts like a protective cover over the Earth and our oceans. These bright white spots reflect excess heat back into space and keep the planet cooler. In theory, the Arctic remains colder than the equator because more of the heat from the sun is reflected off the ice, back into space. Apart from local weather effects, such as fog production, icebergs have two main impacts on climate. Iceberg production affects the mass balance of the parent ice sheets, and melting icebergs influence both ocean structure and global sea level.

Content for this question contributed by Terri Du Charme, resident of Marinette, Marinette County, Wisconsin, USA