Biggest iceberg year since 2003: ice forecaster

Glen Whiffen
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Icebergs are majestic to look at, particularly when a spring sun illuminates that pure glacial ice against a brilliant blue sea.
And an iceberg or two off a town’s harbour does wonders for an early start to the tourism season.

A bumper crop of icebergs — as there is this year along the northeast and east coasts of the province — sets the tourism industry abuzz.

For mariners, however, the bergs in all their sculpted shapes and sizes, hidden in the fog, or with growlers and bergy bits bobbing on or just below the surface of a rough sea, it could be hazardous.

The Canadian Ice Service issues daily notices to the fishing and shipping industries with charts that plot reported and spotted icebergs, and identifies the locations and the total area in which they are contained.

Trudy Wohlleben, senior ice forecaster with the Canadian Ice Service, said in a year such as this, icebergs can be seen up to 500 kilometres further south than in normal years.

“This is probably the worst season we’ve seen since 2003, as 2003 was very similar to 2014 in terms of the greater than normal amount of sea ice in the spring, and also in terms of the berg numbers and the southerly extent of the berg pack,” Wohlleben said.

“If we have a heavier than normal sea ice year, like this year, we know that probably there will be a lot of icebergs, because as the icebergs come from Greenland down along the Labrador coast, they are more likely to survive that journey if they are protected by sea ice.

“So, in a year with not much sea ice, the bergs are exposed to the waves, erosion by waves and warm sea surface temperatures. But if they are embedded within the sea ice pack they are more likely to survive the journey south. So this year, like in 2003, we had more than normal amounts of sea ice and therefore, not surprisingly, we have more bergs in the area than normal.”

Icebergs seen along the coasts of Newfoundland and Labrador mostly come from the glaciers of western Greenland. Some come from glaciers on islands in Canada's Arctic area.

Organizations: Canadian Ice Service

Geographic location: Greenland, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada Arctic

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