Last week, we reported car and house-sized chunks of broken-up sea ice are being pounded onto the shore of St. John’s harbor in a sight locals haven’t seen since the 1980’s. Now, USCG’s International Ice Patrol reports a drastic increase in icebergs drifting in the transatlantic ship lanes.
As of April 4, 2017, 455 icebergs have drifted or been sighted south of 48°N in the transatlantic shipping lanes, according to the U.S. Coast Guard’s International Ice Patrol. On average, 83 icebergs drift south of this latitude by the end of March based on data collected between 1900 and 2016. The number of icebergs we are seeing now is usually not seen until late May or early June.
Coast Guard Cmdr. Gabrielle McGrath, who leads the ice patrol, told AP she has never seen such a drastic increase in such a short time. Adding to the danger, three icebergs were discovered outside the boundaries of the area the Coast Guard had advised mariners to avoid, she said. According to AP, McGrath is predicting a fourth consecutive “extreme ice season” with more than 600 icebergs in the shipping lanes.
“Cold temperatures and persistent, strong northerly winds caused sea-ice expansion south and east through to near 46°N,” IIP said in their 7-day Iceberg Outlook released April 5. “These conditions also brought significant numbers of icebergs into Flemish Pass. During the last week of March, three icebergs were detected outside of IIP’s published Iceberg Limit.”
“While sea ice is forecasted to contract and recede to the north, hundreds of icebergs are expected to continue drifting the Flemish Pass expanding the Iceberg Limit southward. The Southern Iceberg Limit will reach near 42°N close to the mid-April median Iceberg Limit while the Eastern Iceberg Limit is expected to remain inside of the mid-April median over the next seven days,” IIP said.
IIP’s data records, which extend to 1900, show that nearly 500 icebergs enter the shipping lanes in an average year. However, the year-to-year variation is wide. In 1984, the busiest iceberg year in IIP’s history, 2 202 icebergs entered the shipping lanes. On the other hand, during two years (1966 and 2006) no icebergs reached the shipping lanes.
TO BE CONTINUED ON THE WATCHERS