Speed Reads

Climate change

Here's what may happen now that a giant iceberg has split into a dozen pieces

Back in December, reports warned that a 1,620-square-mile iceberg, which broke off from the Antarctic peninsula, was on course to collide with South Georgia Island in the southern Atlantic. In doing so, scientists feared, it would crush coral, sponges, and plankton on the sea floor and also cut off seals and penguins from their normal hunting grounds, forcing them to make long and dangerous detours. As it turns out, The Wall Street Journal reports, "warmer waters and the torque of the current have shattered" the iceberg, known as A68a, into a dozen pieces, which look like they'll drift farther north and miss South Georgia Island.

If that's the case, the penguins and seals will be spared from the collision, and the drifting icebergs may instead cause more problems for humans, possibly obstructing shipping lanes. Still, there are significant risks to marine life, the Journal reports. As the icebergs melt, there would be an influx of cold fresh water into the ocean, potentially killing off phytoplankton and throwing the food chain off kilter. Without phytoplankton, the krill that feed on them would starve, which would in turn lead to "depleting populations" of fish, seals, penguins, and whales.

A research team from the British Antarctic Survey is on its way to study the affects the icebergs have on the area's marine ecology and get a sense of what to expect should more icebergs break off from the Antarctic ice shelf amid rising global temperatures. "Everyone is pulling out all the stops to make this happen," Povl Abrahamsen, an oceanographer and research team leader, told the Journal. Read more at The Wall Street Journal.