Early yesterday morning, the Associated Press reported that “one of the biggest icebergs ever recorded - a trillion-ton behemoth more than seven times the size of New York City - has broken off from the Antarctica Ice Shelf.”
Captured by satellite, A.P. says “the giant chunk snapped off an ice shelf” and into the South Pole Sea, and now “it is triggering disagreement among scientists over whether or not global warming is to blame.”
So what is global warming?
Let’s begin with the term greenhouse gases.
These are gaseous compounds in the atmosphere that are capable of absorbing infrared radiation, thereby trapping and holding heat in the atmosphere.
And by increasing the heat in the atmosphere, greenhouse gases are responsible for the so-called greenhouse effect, which ultimately leads to global warming.
But what are greenhouse gases, and what sort of harm are they capable of?
Greenhouse gases are a hot topic when it comes to global warming.
These gases absorb heat energy emitted from the Earth’s surface and reradiate it back to the ground.
This way, they contribute to the greenhouse effect, which keeps the planet from losing all of its heat from the surface, at night.
The concentrations of various greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, determine how much heat is absorbed by the atmosphere, and how much it should reradiate back to the surface.
Human activities—especially fossil-fuel combustion since the Industrial Revolution—are responsible for steady increases in the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
The four most significant greenhouse gases are:
* Water vapor;
* Carbon dioxide;
* Surface-level ozone
The heat they generate is invariably responsible for the “carving” up of the icebergs in the South Pole, and even though this is not unusual, “it is an especially big one this time.”
According to Project MIDAS, a research group based in Britain, the size of the iceberg that broke off “covers an area of roughly 2,300 square miles (6,000 square kilometers), more than twice the size of Luxembourg.
“Its volume is twice that of Lake Erie, U.S.A.”
Project MIDAS also said: “It broke loose from the Larsen C ice shelf, which scientists had been monitoring for months, as they watched a crack grow more than 120 miles (200 kilometers) long.”
It also revealed that “scientists have indicated that global warming has caused a thinning of such shelves, but they differ on whether the latest event can be blamed on climate change.
“The iceberg that broke off is considered unlikely to pose any threat to shipping. And since the ice was already floating, the breakup won’t raise sea levels in the short term.”
However, the project also pointed out that “the iceberg removed more than 10 percent of the ice shelf, and if that eventually hastens the flow of glaciers behind it into the water, there could be a ‘very modest’ rise in sea level.
Still, another report has revealed that two other Antarctic ice shelves, farther north on the Antarctic Peninsula, collapsed in 1995 and 2002.
That sped up the slide of glaciers, which contributed to sea-level rise, David Vaughan, director of science at the British Antarctic Survey, said in a statement.
He also said: ”Our glaciologists will now be watching closely to see whether the remaining Larsen C ice shelf becomes less stable than before the iceberg broke free.”
Eric Rignot, a glaciologist at the University of California, Irvine, said the breaking off of the iceberg “is part of a long-term major loss of the ice shelves in the peninsula, progressing southbound and resulting from climate warming.”
As for Swansea University glaciologist Martin O’Leary, a member of the MIDAS project, he called the ice shelf collapse “a natural event, and we’re not aware of any link to human-induced climate change.”
Still, a spokeswoman for the British Antarctic survey said “there’s not enough information to say whether the calving is an effect of climate change, though there’s good evidence global warming has caused the thinning of the ice shelf.”
And so the confusing stories continue.
As for all of us who are living on these small islands and atolls we call home as they’re tottering unsteadily on the unpredictable South Pacific Sea, let us hope and pray that the ice shelf in the Antarctica would somehow be prevented, from complete collapse at any time now.
Indeed, let’s pray that the equally unpredictable President of the United States of America, Donald Trump, would quit being a spoiled lout, and declare obsolete all those greenhouse gas-firing equipment and machinery, and ban them from being used everywhere in America.
After all, if it hadn’t been for those silly greenhouse gases that are being produced everywhere else but here, there wouldn’t be any fear among any of us of being swamped out of one’s home night or day, here in the South Pacific today.
* DANICA KIRKA of the Associated Press, and Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. were relied upon in connection to certain, relevant matters as this editorial comment was being written.