An iceberg sank the Titanic. Now meet its mother

It’s ironic, and a ‘simple twist of fate’ (to coin some Bob Dylan poetry): the glacier that spawned the Titanic-busting iceberg could well contribute to the sinking of the British coastline from which the ship set sail. The director of a monitoring programme has flown over the Ilulissat glacier in Greenland and seen

‘gigantic holes in it through which swirling masses of melt water were falling. I first looked at this glacier in the 1960s and there were no holes. These so-called moulins, 10 to 15 metres across, have opened up all over the place. There are hundreds of them.’

This melt water was pouring through to the bottom of the glacier creating a lake 500 metres deep which was causing the glacier ‘to float on land. These melt-water rivers are lubricating the glacier, like applying oil to a surface and causing it to slide into the sea […]’.

Apparently this one glacier is melting so fast that the same amount of water put into the sea at its current rate is used by the City of London. And it means the projections for sea-level rise of two years ago are now out of date. The conservative estimate of a rise of 60cm/24in for the 21st century, made by the IPCC, should maybe now be replaced with a 2 metre estimate, a rise that ‘would be catastrophic for European coastlines’. Oh yes – the melting is triggering earthquakes as well.

(Time for prayer; a host of Christian, Shia, Sunni, Hindu, Shinto, Buddhist and Jewish religious leaders, at the invitation of Patriarch Bartholomew I, were at the glacier yesterday. Looking on the bright side, such global environmental problems can provide a ‘more-than-human’ common cause that diverts energy and attention away from factional conflict…)

Welcome, O Water World.

5 Responses to “An iceberg sank the Titanic. Now meet its mother”

  1. archanaraghuram Says:

    Very interesting. Inspite of all these evidence, why are we still not doing anything about global warming.

  2. drfrank Says:

    Hi Archana, In response, I think there are plenty of ‘green shoots’ to have reason for hope – but I share what I take to be your frustration. Without pinning down whom you mean by ‘we’, I’d answer your question in terms of a combination of factors, including: entrenched vested interests maintaining the status quo; a sense of helplessness in response to perceived complexity and scale of ‘the problem’; and, an assumption that making changes are too costly in relation to the extent of the relative improvements they afford. All of which, I believe, are malleable to varying degrees. Do you yourself observe or experience any indications of ‘change-for-the-better’ taking place? Thanks for visiting.

  3. archanaraghuram Says:

    With respect to climate change, I don’t see any indication of positive change. Short sighted commercial gains seem to be gaining over long term benefits.
    I don’t know which part of the world you are from. In the east, there used to be this wholistic view of development and an emphaisis on living in harmony with nature. That attitide does not exist anymore.
    In India, the economy is growing, but it has taken a huge toll on the environment.

  4. drfrank Says:

    Hi Archana, you seem very clear about what is being lost, in terms of an approach to development where you are.

    I live in the UK, where industrial development and varieties of capitalism that privilege a narrow view of profit have a well-established history. I can imagine that the changes taking place in China and India today, for example, are rapid, frenetic and – for many people – deeply unsettling. I remember listening to a programme on the radio about Bangalore, which seemed to be prime territory for the headlong (head) rush of so-called ‘progress’. And we hear in the UK regularly about the pace of change in China – two coal-fired power stations being built a week.

    I do perceive green shoots, however – see some of the posts I’ve tagged with ‘green shoots’ for examples; and follow the IIED link in my blogroll for good stuff on development initiatives that engender more participatory decision making.

    Even so, I fear for the loss of the earth’s biodiversity (a loss which I think impoverishes us in terms of what it means to be human); I fear for those with least access to good water, healthy soil and nourishing food; and, I fear for international relations as resources become ever more fought over than they are already.

    So for me, the picture is mixed and complex – predominantly made up of elements of ‘the thinning road’ scenario, mixed with some ‘green shoots’. And, of course, I have no idea what lies just around the corner…

  5. Don L Says:

    What fools the gullible warmers are. The iceberg that calved from the Baffin Island/ Greenland area was just that -a calved iceberg -caused not by melting (glacers get soft edges ands retreat when subjected to heat. Hard edged bergs such as the ones in Al gore’s silly movie(we now know those scenes we created by computer) but by too much cold. EVen fake scientist Al Gore doesn’t realize that his movie shows normal icebergs calving when the sheer weight of the added mass of cold ice presses glaciers into the sea where they break off and become icebergs.

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