by Guest Blogger
July 28, 2005
We are sailing back down Sermilik fjord, passing hundreds of icebergs –
some of them real giants. By all rights, we should be pretty jaded by
now, having spent the past weeks staring at icebergs, glaciers and sea
ice, but every now and then you still see something that knocks your
News of today’s prize find spread rapidly through the ship.
An iceberg made up of the kind of colors you only see in places like
these; colors that are impossible to perfectly describe or reproduce.
Even now, 9:30 at night and hours later, we’re still arguing about what
color you would call this iceberg. Personally, I’d say it was, “a very
unusual shade of aquamarine”.
Part of the reason icebergs are so fascinating is that each is unique,
drifting, and ever changing as they melt. They calve off the glaciers
that feed into this fjord, many of which are fed in turn by the
Greenland ice sheet. So here you have ice, thousands of years old,
making it’s way out to sea. Some ice sheet fed glaciers in this part of
Greenland are speeding up, and disintegrating, resulting in more ice
being dumped into the fjords.
All of this (admittedly very pretty) floating glacier ice does not only
add to sea level rise. It also dilutes the ocean, making it less salty
– a difference you can taste in the fjord water here. Thermohaline
(thermo = heat, haline = salt) ocean currents circulate water from the
tropics up the coast of Europe – keeping its winters more mild than
otherwise. The fear is that as more fresh water drains into the Arctic
Ocean, it will weaken or shut down the “pump” powering this current.
So, in a seeming paradox, global warming could lead to a regional
cooling of northern Europe, with major implications for everything from
agriculture to summer swimming.