Putting The Escaped Ice Island In Perspective

Posted on Wednesday 11th August 2010

On August 5, an ice island four times the size of Manhattan broke off of a Greenland glacier and started floating toward the Nares Strait, the body of water that separates western Greenland from far northeastern Canada's Ellsemere Island.

Comparing the iceberg to the one that sank the Titanic in 1912, some are worried that it might disrupt shipping lanes or crush offshore oil drilling operations as it cruises toward Newfoundland.

But that won't happen for a year at least. And it will only happen if the iceberg reaches the Nares Strait before this winter's freeze, which will likely start in September, and doesn't disintegrate into manageable pieces as it pinballs through islands and other icebergs.

How big is four times the size of Manhattan? According to University of Delaware professor Andreas Muenchow, it is quite a lot of liquid:

"The freshwater stored in this ice island could keep the Delaware or Hudson Rivers flowing for more than two years. ... It could also keep all U.S. public tap water flowing for 120 days."

And is the iceberg evidence that humans are causing climate change? Congressman Ed Markey (D-MA) thinks so, but Professor Muenchow doesn't think it is a good idea to jump to that conclusion:

"Global warming and climate change are very real and challenging problems, but it is foolish to assign every 'visible' event to that catch-all phrase. It cheapens and discredits those findings where global warming is a real and immediate cause for observable phenomena. Details matter, in science as well as in policy."

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