For the second time in 26 months, a massive iceberg has clogged a large portion of Antarcticas Ross Sea, causing what could turn out to be a devastating loss of penguins and other marine life, according to a NASA-funded study by Stanford scientists.
Using satellite data, geophysicists Kevin Arrigo and Gert L. van Dijken monitored the movements of a giant iceberg named "C-19," which calved off the western face of the Ross Ice Shelf in May 2002. C-19 is one of the largest icebergs ever recorded -- 19.2 miles wide and 124 miles long, or nearly twice as big as Rhode Island.
Arrigo is an assistant professor of geophysics, and van Dijken is a science and engineering associate in the department. In a study published in the American Geophysical Unions Geophysical Research Letters, the authors described how C-19 drifted northward from May until November 2002, when it apparently ran aground. By January 2003, the iceberg had become trapped against a shallow bank, eventually forming a perpendicular barrier that prevented sea ice from moving out of the southwestern Ross Sea for the next three months -- a crucial time of year when tons of microscopic marine algae, called phytoplankton, normally bloom in open water.
Mark Shwartz | Stanford University
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