As it so often tends to demonstrate, life is ironic and unpredictable. This is probably what a team of scientists thought as they were examining the giant glaciers floating around in the Southern Ocean. According to the team’s research, Earth has its own way of handling our enormous CO2 emissions, as the southern giant icebergs slow down climate change.
- In 2013, a glacier the size of Singapore started drifting around the Southern Ocean
- As a result of climate change, glaciers are splitting off and melting as they float
- These glaciers contain nutrients like iron, and other frozen materials
- When in contact with the released nutrients, plankton tends to bloom
- Large amounts of ocean CO2 is being absorbed by the plankton
There are these huge ice sheets in Antarctica that happen to share the location of the South Pole. Because of global warming, huge chunks of ice are breaking off from the mainland, and drifting off at sea, floating and melting in the Southern Ocean.
Scientists have long seen this sign as a clear indicator of the dangers of global warming, but as it turns out, it might be the Earth’s attempt at staving off climate change.
These icebergs are huge; most of them are the size of cities, and some of them even the size of countries.
As they melt, the glaciers release nutrients trapped in them for – in some cases literal – eons, leaving them to float in the ocean.
When in contact with plankton, these nutrients cause huge and widespread blooms in the plankton ranks.
This process is known as ocean fertilization, and it can be observed on footage from satellites with ease, as the glaciers leave long trails behind them.
The scale of this process is so large, that a smaller, 10 mile wide glacier will leave trail of nutrients in an area of over 600 miles.
For about a month after the iceberg leaves the area, the plankton blooms will photosynthesize the CO2 in the ocean around them, producing oxygen in its stead, eventually dying and trapping the CO2 at the bottom of the ocean.
With around 3,000 icebergs floating around the Southern Ocean at any one time, they will definitely be of help in the fight with climate change.
However, they stress their warning, we can’t expect to just sit back and let nature take care of itself while we keep pumping it full of chemicals.
Image source: Wikimedia