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Vol 69 (12 Issues in 2014)
Edited by: Jim Galvin
Print ISSN: 0043-1656 Online ISSN: 1477-8696
Published on behalf of Royal Meteorological Society
Impact Factor: 1.038

12:00 AM EDT April 10, 2014

Iceberg Risk Greater Today Than the Titanic Year of 1912, Study Claims

Scientists are challenging the theory that icebergs made 1912, the year RMS Titanic was lost to the North Atlantic,  an exceptionally hazardous year for shipping. Writing in Weather the research shows that while high numbers of icebergs posed a danger, context shows that this was not exceptional and that in recent decades the risk has increased due to thawing polar ice.

In 1912 nearly two and a half times as many icebergs were recorded compared to the average year, with 1038 icebergs observed to cross 48°N. However, records dating from 1913 onwards show that 1912 is far from an extreme year.

In the decades either side of 1912 five of the years recorded over 700 icebergs crossed 48°N. This has become increasingly common in recent decades. Eight of the ten years between 1991 and 2000 recorded more than 700 icebergs, with five exceeded the 1038 of 1912.

"We have seen that 1912 was a year of raised iceberg hazard, but not exceptionally so in the long term. 1909 recorded a slightly higher number of icebergs and more recently the risk has been much greater," said Professor Grant Bigg.

He added: "As use of the Arctic, in particular, increases in the future with the declining sea-ice the ice hazard will increase in water not previously used for shipping. As polar ice sheets are increasingly losing mass as well, the iceberg risk is likely to increase in the future, rather than decline."