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HomeClimate ChangeGiant iceberg set for devastating collision with South Georgia Island

Giant iceberg set for devastating collision with South Georgia Island

Giant iceberg set for devastating collision with South Georgia Island
In this handout image made available by the European Space Agency on November 4, 2020, an image captured by Copernicus Sentinel-1 radar mission on July 5, 2020, shows the parent berg, A-68A, which is about twice the size of Luxemburg and one of the largest icebergs on record. - The world's biggest iceberg is on a collision course with a remote South Atlantic island that is home to thousands of penguins and seals, and could impede their ability to gather food, scientists told AFP on November 4, 2020. (Photo by Handout / EUROPEAN SPACE AGENCY / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT
Iceberg A-68A is about twice the size of Luxemburg and one of the largest icebergs on record. (ESA/AFP via Getty Images)

An enormous iceberg is heading toward South Georgia Island in the southern Atlantic, where scientists say a collision could devastate wildlife including penguins, seals and albatross.

Scientists have spent weeks watching this climate-related event unfold, as the iceberg – about the same size as the island itself – has meandered and advanced over two years since breaking off from the Antarctic peninsula in July of 2017.

The peninsula is one of the fastest-warming places on Earth, registering a record high temperature of 20.75 degrees Celsius (69.35 degrees Fahrenheit) on Feb. 9.

The warming has scientists concerned about ice melt leading to higher sea levels worldwide.

The gigantic iceberg – dubbed A68a – is on a path to collide with the South Georgia Island, a remote British overseas territory off South America.

View of Iceberg A-68A from space near South Georgia Island, Atlantic Ocean December 8, 2020. Copernicus Sentinel/Sentinel Hub/Pierre Markuse/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES
A view of iceberg A-68A from space near South Georgia Island (Credits: Reuters)

Whether that collision is days or weeks away is unclear, though, as the iceberg has sped up and slowed down with the ocean currents along the way, said Geraint Tarling, a biological oceanographer with the British Antarctic Survey who has been tracking the icy mass.

A collision is still uncertain, as the currents could carry the iceberg past the island, Tarling said.

‘The currents around the island are complex, and it is still possible it may miss,’ Tarling said.

Images captured by a Royal Air Force aircraft and released on Tuesday show the magnitude of the monstrous, 4,200-square-kilometre iceberg, its surface carved with tunnels, cracks and fissures. A number of smaller ice chunks can be seen floating nearby.

A view of the A-68A iceberg from a Royal Air Force reconnaissance plane near South George island, November 18, 2020. Picture taken November 18, 2020. UK Ministry of Defence/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES
A view of the A-68A iceberg from a Royal Air Force reconnaissance plane near South George island (Credits: Reuters)

‘The sheer size of the A68a iceberg means it is impossible to capture its entirety in one single shot,’ officials said in a statement.

Scientists fear that the iceberg, in hitting the island, could crush marine life on the sea floor. Should it lodge at the island’s flank, it could block penguins and seals off from their normal forage routes to feed their young.

A68a could also be an obstacle to government ships conducting fishery patrols and surveillance around South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.