A giant glacier released millions of tons of fresh water into the ocean
A giant glacier that separated from Antarctica in 2017 melted and dropped about 61 million freshwater Olympic pools into the ocean, raising questions about how this would affect the marine ecosystem, according to a report released yesterday.
The huge iceberg was twice the size of Luxembourg when it separated from the Larsen ice sheet, which warmed faster than any other part of the Earth's southernmost continent.
According to the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), with an area of 5.719 square kilometers, it was the largest glacier on Earth when it formed and the sixth largest ever recorded.
For two years, the 1 trillion-tonne "giant," known as the A-68, floated in the cold waters of the Weddell Sea before traveling north and threatening the British island of South Georgia, about 4.000 kilometers from its starting point.
The glacier, called A-68a, approached the island in late 2020 after tearing the piece apart, raising fears that it would get stuck on the seabed, blocking ocean currents and blocking the passage of thousands of penguins and seals.
However, according to the new study, the glacier, although briefly touching the seabed, quickly melted in the warmer region around South Georgia and lost a significant amount of its mass until it reached shallower waters.
Scientists tracking its satellite journey have estimated that the A-68 released a total of 152 billion tonnes of freshwater-rich freshwater into the sea between the end of 2020 and its melting point in 2021.
That is 20 times more water than in Loch Ness, Scotland, or 61 million Olympic-size pools, the BAS said. The statement added that it was "a disturbance that could have a profound effect on the island's marine ecosystem".
"It's a huge amount of dissolved water," said Ann Brackman-Folgman, a scientist at the Center for Polar Observation and Modeling (CPOM), who led the study, which was published in the journal Remote Sensing of the Environment.
She adds that the next thing they want to determine is whether there was a positive or negative impact on the ecosystem around South Georgia.