City News Service
Icebergs that break off from Antarctica cool and dilute the water they pass through with impacts that last longer than expected, scientists from UC San Diego and the University of San Diego announced Monday.
The effect of icebergs on water last for up to 10 days, affecting carbon-absorbing phytoplankton and the carbon cycle, the researchers report in the March issue of
“Iceberg transport and melting have a prominent role in the distribution of phytoplankton in the Weddell Sea,” said paper lead author John J. Helly, who holds joint appointments at the San Diego Supercomputer Center and Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UCSD.
Co-author Ronald Kaufmann, an associate professor of marine science and environmental studies at the University of San Diego, noted, "The results demonstrate that icebergs influence oceanic surface waters and mixing to greater depths than previously realized."
The research team examined data from in the Weddell Sea, east of the Antarctic Peninsula and south of the Atlantic Ocean, surveying the area around icebergs more than 20 miles in length and checking the same place again 10 days later.
The second check revealed increased concentrations of chlorophyll and reduced concentrations of carbon dioxide compared to nearby areas without icebergs.
The results showed a connection between floating icebergs and changes in the carbon cycle of the Southern Ocean, according to the researchers.