Show Details

Globetrotting Swells

November 16, 2006

A storm in the Gulf of Alaska broke apart a giant iceberg in Antarctica, more than eight thousand miles away.


A frosty long-distance breakup. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Last October, a storm in the Gulf of Alaska broke apart an iceberg more than twice the size of Los Angeles. More amazingly, that iceberg was off the coast of Antarctica, over eight thousand miles away. In a new report, Northwestern University seismologist Emile Okal and his colleagues link the iceberg’s breakup to a major ocean swell, which emerged from the violent storm and traveled for six days across the Pacific before it rocked the Antarctic ice.

EMILE OKAL (Northwestern University):
This could represent a way of connecting two systems in the Earth, which, prior to this, might have been thought as being completely separate.

In fact, he says ocean swells from distant storms may break up polar ice all the time. But if global warming increases the frequency and intensity of such storms, it could accelerate the process. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.