Iceberg Spotted from New Zealand Shore

An interesting news article appeared in Sci-Tech-Today on November 17, 2006 entitled “Iceberg Spotted from New Zealand Shore“.

The article reads in part,

“An iceberg has been spotted from the New Zealand shore for the first time in 75 years, one of about 100 that have been drifting south of the country.

The giant ice chunk was visible Thursday from Dunedin on South Island but has since moved away, driven by winds and ocean currents. The flotilla of icebergs — some as big as houses — were first spotted south of New Zealand early this month.

Last year, icebergs were seen in the country’s waters for the first time in 56 years. But the last time one was visible from the New Zealand shore was June 1931, said Mike Williams, an oceanographer at the National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research.

Scientists have been reluctant to blame global warming.

‘We’ve been monitoring these things for such a short time, it’s impossible to see. To say this is unusual and related to global warming is just not possible,’ Paul Augustinus, an Auckland University glacial geomorphology lecturer, told the New Zealand Herald earlier this month.”

This observation is interesting in light of the below average sea surface temperatures that are currently observed in the Southern Hemisphere high latitudes (see). In the November 17 2006 analysis, the cold anomalies extend north to the South Island of New Zealand.

The news article makes the standard comment on whether or not this event is related to global warming. The more appropriate climate science question, however, is whether the geographic distribution of icebergs in both hemispheres have changed over the last several decades, and, if so, why? In the case of this event, it appears that colder than average ocean conditions in this region are part of the explanation.

The question to the media is why hasn’t this rare (but cold) climate event (and last year’s sightings in New Zealand) been reported more widely?

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