After months of intense scrutiny and media attention the Larsen C iceberg (now known by the catchy name A68) finally broke away from the ice shelf.
To hear about just how big this berg is (how big even is Luxembourg eh, The Guardian?) I went on BBC Radio Berkshire to talk about this trillion ton ice cube, you can listen here.
The ice shelf that my PhD is based on last week hit the headlines with the news that a crevasse in the ice shelf had grown suddenly, and now an iceberg of about 5000 sq km (that’s about 1/4 the size of Wales to use the internationally recognised unit for big things) is set to break away from the ice shelf. Should the iceberg break off it will be one of the top 10 biggest every recorded.
The crevasse between Larsen C and the potential ice berg (image NASA).
However, the big news among glaciologists is surely that that things we find exciting have finally made it in the big time: Paddy Power are offering odds on when the iceberg will detach (or calve to give it its technical name).
So is it worth a punt?
Well even the experts aren’t sure. Prof Adrian Luckmann, who is part of the MIDAS project which released the news about the crevasse told the BBC that he’d be “amazed” if the iceberg doesn’t calve in the next few months. Looking at the scale of the crevasse and the speed at which it seems to have grown recently this seems like pretty sound reasoning:
However, before you go splashing all your cash on January and February remember there is still 20 km of ice holding that iceberg on, which is still a fair distance. We also don’t yet know what caused the sudden growth of the crevasse at the end of last year.
Large break up events tend to happen in the Antarctic summer (i.e. our Winter) so if it’s going to happen and it’s not in the next month or two it may well not be until next year.
So that narrows things down quite a bit but there’s still a bit of guessing to be done if you feel this is more worthy of your money than guessing how many goals Chelsea will score against Leicester on Saturday which I’d personally recon as being a much safer bet.
A few other notes about this iceberg that may be of general interest:
- Its breaking away won’t contribute to sea level rise (it’s already floating on the ocean so it has already displaced its own weight in the water), but it may make the ice shelf less stable.
- aAlthough previous ice shelf collapses such as that of Larsen C’s former next door neighbour Larsen B did follow big iceberg events, there was significantly more melting observed on Larsen B prior to this, so a sudden collapse of Larsen C is still unlikely.
- However, if Larsen C did collapse it could lead to sea level rise through the glaciers that used to flow onto the ice shelf speeding up and flowing into the ocean.
- Yes, penguins have been known to live on Larsen C 😦
And remember, please gamble responsibly. And that does not mean signing up for your free bonus bets and then putting them on Barnet FC to get promoted. That would be silly.
Here’s the final film of the public lecture I gave in May. Have a look, I absolutely promise it should be accessible to everyone, that’s the idea! Some of my friends were worried about coming incase they wouldn’t understand it and reviews have been pretty nice so I hope you will enjoy it too…
Here’s me talking about what I do, what it’s like and how I’m funded etc.- it was done off the cuff so not perfect but I guess that gives it honesty 🙂
Find a PhD, who I did this video for, is a very good resource though for anyone thinking about further study.
Other places you can look specifically in my area include the met jobs mailing list, which is meteorology and some general earth sciences and is how I found my PhD, and cryolist for specifically polar things.
Carl Anton Larsen (image thecoldestjourney.org)
Earlier last year a new emperor penguin colony was discovered but it appears they may not actually be that new.
In 1893, the explorer Carl Anton Larsen reported what is thought to have been the first sighting of emperor penguins in the area that is now known after him as the Larsen ice shelves. However, this sighting had never been verified until recent satellite images found a colony on the Larsen C ice shelf. It is thought that these are the same colony and are permanently established on the ice shelf, unlike two other colonies who have recently been reported to be moving onto ice shelves due to changes in the development of their natural habitat, sea ice.
This is especially exciting for me as the Larsen C ice shelf is the one my work is based on. For better or for worse it is much easier for me to put my work into context if I tell people about penguins losing their homes than sea level rise, although one of these may be a much bigger problem for us in the long term.
Explaining a PhD using only the 1000 most commonly used words. Much harder than it sounds. Here’s mine:
I use numbers to look at how hot ice at the bottom of the world gets. Sometimes the ice becomes so hot it becomes water. This can mean that big bits of water form in the same place, and these big bits of water can mean that more hot from the sun makes more water from the ice. If too many big bits of water are made then bad things happen.
Have a go yourself here. Today the office is not so productive now…
Headlines today have picked up on a study suggesting that a third of Antarctica’s emperor penguins could be wiped out by 2100.
What’s the problem? A predicted loss of sea ice means a loss of krill, the main food source for emperor penguins. Young krill need sea ice to survive as they eat algae that lives in it.
Tasty tasty krill (image National Geographic).
I thought sea ice was increasing in Antarctica? That may well be the case for now, and the study does suggest that penguin numbers may actually increase for a while, but eventually a decline in sea ice will cause a fall in penguin numbers much steeper than this increase. Can anything be done? The study’s authors suggest that putting in marine protection zones to prevent fishing in areas where penguins need to hunt for food may help, but they don’t expect that penguins will have much ability to adapt to changing conditions, unlike these clever climbing penguins.
Global number of breeding pairs of emperor penguins from 2009 to 2100. After a short spell of increase the population plummets. (Jenouvrier et al. 2014, Nature Climate Change)
You can read the full study here: http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nclimate2280.html