STATES CHRONICLE – It may be that we have an incredible ally to fight against global warming, as giant icebergs slow down climate change in a way undiscovered before by scientists. The huge blocks of ice that float and travel around Antarctica have a crucial role in reducing the carbon dioxide that reaches our atmosphere.
Researchers from the University of Sheffield tested the importance of giant icebergs between 2003 and 2013. They analyzed a number of 175 satellite images that allowed them to successfully track around 17 of them in their paths around the icy waters off the coast of Antarctica. A giant iceberg was defined, for the purpose of the study, as being over 11 miles in length (18 km).
To put it into perspective, that’s a distance longer than Manhattan.
The researchers studied the paths of the giant icebergs and found that they leave a valuable area of influence in their wake that greatly benefits the environment. In fact, they found that the melting iron from the ice slips into the water and triggers plankton blooms. That means that it encourages the growth of algae and other microscopic plant-like organisms within the cold ocean.
Those organisms are incredibly important at trapping carbon dioxide from the air. The gas is severely damaging to our atmosphere and our environment. By stopping it, the plankton, aided in growth by the giant icebergs, have thus become one of our greatest allies. They have exquisite capabilities and, even when they die, they sink to the ocean floor, taking the carbon dioxide down with them.
Furthermore, the researchers noted that the giant icebergs positively impact plankton growth in an area up to 625 miles (1,000 km) around them. The meltwater filled with iron and nutrients are carried around by winds and currents. The beneficial influence spreads, triggers plankton blooms, and they efficiently help our environment. In essence, the giant icebergs fertilize the icy waters.
According to co-author of the study, professor Grant Bigg, that means that the giant blocks of ice have a bigger role in the carbon cycle than previously believed. They estimated that between 10 to 40 million tonnes of carbon is trapped into the ice due to their efficiency. In fact, Bigg noted that without them, global warming would be more pronounced today.
Experts estimated that temperatures across the world rose with 2% each year. Without the giant icebergs alone, that rate could’ve gone up to 2.1% or 2.2%. That’s an incredible difference to be attributed to just the giant floating chunks of ice around Antarctica.
Image source: centralnewfoundland.com