Forest fires in Greece and Turkey, flash floods in Germany and landslides in Japan. I feel like the world is coming to an end, and that’s because It is. Well, maybe that is a slight exaggeration, but it is clear that the detrimental impact of man on our planet is more tangible than ever, and that the tangibility is, sadly, here to stay. Just yesterday, August 9, 2021, the UN released a dazzling assessment of the state of climate change. The sobering report, claimed by the UN chief as a “red code for humanity”, said it is “unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land”.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, what’s left of it anyway. Recent research suggests that stray icebergs, caused by warming atmosphere, could pose a vastly underestimated tsunami risk.
Ice caps are melting
Before we get bogged down in the details, let’s move on to the South Pole. Last May, a chunk of ice, destined to become the world’s largest iceberg, broke off the Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf on the west coast of Antarctica. The iceberg, named by scientists A-76 – which was an impressive 105 miles long and 15 miles wide with a diameter of 1,667 square miles (making it larger than Rhode Island) – slipped into the Weddell Sea . Despite this gargantuan splash, large chunks of Antarctic ice are constantly sliding into the ocean year after year, as warming continues to contribute to the increasingly alarming climate crisis.
Icebergs can sometimes be deep enough to even scrape the seabed, moving a volume of water with their splash, which can threaten ships and damage marine structures such as platforms and underwater internet cabling. However, even smaller icebergs, which are not large enough to reach the seabed, can produce underwater landslides when they hit the shore and create a tsunami hazard, according to a new study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Geosciences of nature.
The danger of stray icebergs
This previously underestimated geo-hazard has pricked the ears of many climatologists as it could have implications for citizens around the world, even thousands of miles away from icy climates. The article thus asserted that “icebergs originating in the Arctic, Greenland and Antarctica are dangers thousands of kilometers from their source of origin and can affect continental slopes by triggering sub-landslides. sailors “.
The information comes from geological work that revealed an underwater landslide in Southwind Fiord, near Baffin Island in Canada between September 2018 and September 2019. Marine landslides, obviously, occur under the sea. water and out of sight, making them notoriously difficult to analyze. To conduct the study, the scientists consulted satellite, seabed bathymetric and local data on the composition of the seabed in an attempt to solve the geological puzzle. The telltale signs of the landslide were found in a comparison of high-resolution images of the fjord’s seabed. Iceberg pits – 20 to 27 meters of depression indicating an iceberg impact – have been discovered. This suggests that an iceberg slide was the cause of the submarine landslide.
The new discoveries add to the ever-growing number and, frankly, frightening, the catastrophic impacts of man-made climate change on our planet. The study exposes a whole new marine geohazard. Underwater landslides were once thought to be alone caused by earthquakes, it now appears that icebergs can also be the cause. The paper stated that “These results indicate that beaching and capsizing icebergs may be responsible for triggering underwater landslides in many fjords and on continental slopes in polar to subpolar environments, previously posing a hazard under the sea. -valued”. Coastal towns, beware: as the ice caps continue to melt, this hazard will only grow and swallow up the future in its path.