Sunday, August 15, 2010

Giant iceberg drifting toward Canada could threaten ships, oil platforms

Randy Boswell in the Montreal Gazette: The Canadian government's top ice experts have begun planning how to deal with a massive iceberg that broke off a Greenland glacier last week and is expected to drift south over the next two years into East Coast shipping lanes and toward offshore oil platforms. NASA, the European Space Agency and a host of academic institutions are already helping Canadian officials monitor and analyze the mammoth object, the biggest free-floating mass of ice in the Arctic Ocean in 50 years.

Environment Canada's Trudy Wohlleben, the Canadian Ice Service forecaster who first spotted last Thursday's birth of Petermann Ice Island 2010, said Tuesday that federal scientists plan to parachute beacons onto the 250-square-kilometre monolith next month to help track its movements along Ellesmere and Baffin islands and, eventually, down the coasts of Labrador and Newfoundland.

Icebergs calved from Greenland's glaciers and floating ice shelves typically follow that Canadian route south, as did the huge one that struck and sank the Titanic in 1912. Wohlleben said the Canadian Ice Service does have "a precedent" to help shape its response to the latest threat — a 29-square-kilometre iceberg that broke away from the Petermann Glacier in 2008 and required constant monitoring until the end of last summer. "But this one is about 10 times larger," she told Postmedia News on Tuesday. "It's something we'll be watching closely."

The ESA released satellite images of the ice island on Monday and the agency's Italy-based spokesman Robert Meisner said Tuesday that Canadian officials will have "regular and full access to Envisat Radar data for sea ice charting activity."….

European Space Agency satellite image of huge iceberg calving from the Petermann Glacier in Greenland

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