Article

TIME FOR BOOTIES: Alaskan Swell Destroys Antarctic Iceberg

| posted on July 22, 2010

It’s a small world, and surfers know that. Surf shops buzz as soon as an intense low pressure system rears its head miles from the Baja coast. Saliva drips from the mouths of East Coast groms the moment a tropical depression forms hundreds of miles away. Surfers know. They know the seemingly vast distance between these storms and their shoreline is reducible to a few sleepless nights and lucid daydreams. While the anticipation and intimate understanding of swell forecasting is nothing new to the surf world, this entire process has recently taken center stage in the world of science.

On October 27th of last year, a massive swell originating in the Gulf of Alaska journeyed over 8000 miles southward, allegedly shattering a 3000 km iceberg in Antarctica. This assertion has surprised scientists given the overwhelming distance separating the storms and the iceburg. The coincidence of the swell’s arrival with the breakup of the iceberg, named B15A, makes it a prime suspect surrounding the structure’s demise, and to investigate this incident researchers have taken a closer look at the potential relationship between ocean swells and worldwide weather systems (namely, the relationship between large waves breaking up iceburgs, and the resulting adverse effects on our weather.)

Marc Sponsler, a surf forecaster for WaveWatch.com and a B15A research contributor, describes last year’s destruction: “The storm itself had pressure down to 960 mbs and produced 60 knot winds and 45 foot seas. Losing some size in transit, the resulting swell arrived at the seismometer in Antarctica approximately seven days after its formation with a period near 30 seconds, coinciding with the breakup of the iceberg shortly thereafter.”