Unusually large swarm of icebergs blocking shipping lanes

Posted: April 6, 2017 by oldbrew in sea ice, Uncertainty, wind

Icebergs in the North Atlantic [image credit:

H/T Paul Vaughan
Whether admittedly stronger than usual winds have led to more iceberg material and/or some of the ‘normal’ icebergs have broken up into smaller ones, is not clear, perhaps not known. A record 953 icebergs were observed in April 1984.

More than 400 icebergs have drifted into the North Atlantic shipping lanes over the past week in an unusually large swarm for this early in the season, forcing vessels to slow to a crawl or take detours of hundreds of kilometres, reports CTV News (via AP).

Experts are attributing it to uncommonly strong counter-clockwise winds that are drawing the icebergs south, and perhaps also global warming, which is accelerating the process by which chunks of the Greenland ice sheet break off and float away.

As of Monday, there were about 450 icebergs near the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, up from 37 a week earlier, according to the U.S. Coast Guard’s International Ice Patrol in New London, Connecticut. Those kinds of numbers are usually not seen until late May or early June. The average for this time of year is about 80.

In the waters close to where the Titanic went down in 1912, the icebergs are forcing ships to take precautions. Instead of cutting straight across the ocean, trans-Atlantic vessels are taking detours that can add around 400 miles to the trip. That’s a day and a half of added travel time for many large cargo ships.

Close to the Newfoundland coast, cargo ships owned by Oceanex are throttling way back to 3 or 4 knots as they make their way to their homeport in St. John’s, which can add up to a day to the trip, said executive chairman, Capt. Sid Hynes.

One ship was pulled out of service for repairs after hitting a chunk of ice, he said. “It makes everything more expensive,” Hynes said Wednesday. “You’re burning more fuel, it’s taking a longer time, and it’s hard on the equipment.” He called it a “very unusual year.”

Coast Guard Cmdr. Gabrielle McGrath, who leads the ice patrol, said she has never seen such a drastic increase in such a short time. Adding to the danger, three icebergs were discovered outside the boundaries of the area the Coast Guard had advised mariners to avoid, she said.

McGrath is predicting a fourth consecutive “extreme ice season” with more than 600 icebergs in the shipping lanes.

Full report: Unusually large swarm of icebergs blocking shipping lanes | CTV News

  1. oldbrew says:

    The race must be on to try and find one with a polar bear or two on it 😉
    – – –
    NatGeo: Icebergs in the North Atlantic Ocean

    Number of Icebergs Changes From Year to Year

  2. jarlgeir says:

    Global warming causing too much sea ice? That’s a new one…

  3. […] Source: Unusually large swarm of icebergs blocking shipping lanes | Tallbloke’s Talkshop […]

  4. oldbrew says:

    ‘As spring swings into motion each year, more icebergs start floating into shipping lanes and their numbers grow throughout the summer. ‘

    Some might say ‘more icebergs must be due to more melt’, but wind and maybe other factors have to be considered as well. Could more icebergs mean there was more ice in the first place? Are the icebergs getting broken up more this year by the unusually strong winds, leading to a higher number count?
    – – –
    More about the effect of strong winds in the Arctic: