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Why iceberg the size of Luxembourg could mean cold winters ahead for Europe



By Daily Mail Reporter

Last updated at 5:06 PM on 26th February 2010




A mammoth iceberg that has broken off from Antarctica could affect ocean currents and disrupt weather patterns, scientists warned today.


The 965 sq mile iceberg broke off earlier this month from the Mertz Glacier's floating tongue of ice that sticks out into the Southern Ocean. The 1,300ft thick iceberg is now floating south of Australia.



The iceberg split off the Mertz Glacier, a 100-mile spit of floating ice protruding into the Southern Ocean from Antarctica


Researchers from France and Australia, said the iceberg could block an area that produces super cold, dense water. This dense water keeps Earth's climate on an even keel. It sinks to the bottom of the sea, which drives ocean circulation and shifts heat around the globe.

A slowdown in this process could mean bitter winters in the north Atlantic and therefore Europe within the next decade.







The frozen behemoth could also disturb the exceptionally rich biodiversity in the southern Ocean, including a major colony of emperor penguins on Antarctica.


The billion-tonne mass, which has not yet been named, was dislodged by an older iceberg, known as B9B, which split off in 1987.






Collision: Before and after the Mertz Glacier Tongue broke off in February, when it was dislodged by another, older iceberg, known as B9B

Jammed against the Antarctic continent for more than 20 years, B9B smashed into the Metz tongue like a slow-motion battering ram after it began to drift.

'The ice tongue was almost broken already. It was hanging like a loose tooth,' said Benoit Legresy, a French glaciologist who has been monitoring the Metz Glacier.

Both natural cycles and manmade climate change contribute to the collapse ice shelves and glaciers.

Tide and ocean currents constantly beat against exposed areas, while longer summers and rising temperatures also take a toll.



The area of Antarctica where the new iceberg recently split off


The Metz Glacier Tongue, fitted with GPS beacons and other measurement instruments, could provide crucial insights into how these influences should be apportioned.

He said: 'For the first time, we will have a detailed record of the full cycle of a major calving event - before, during and after.'

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