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Taken from The Independent - May 21, 2006
With three fifths of this year's ice season already over, not a single berg has been spotted within 350 miles of the shipping lanes. Only once before, in 1966, has the IIP recorded zero icebergs in a season. There is no question the low number of bergs is unusual.
"There is no doubt in my mind that major climate change is happening," says Murphy who has been a professional oceanographer for 22 years. "Studies in Greenland show that the glaciers are moving twice as fast as before. That means a lot of production of ice. My expectation has always been if the Greenland glaciers started moving faster there would be increased production [of icebergs] for decades and there should be an increase in the number of icebergs into the shipping lanes. That was my model. But the last couple of years that hasn't happened, and I'm having a hard time understanding what is going on except that there are complicating factors having to do with increased storms. Maybe the destruction processes dominate over the production processes."
So while climate change could be expected to bring about an increase in the number of icebergs being forced into the ocean, its effect in reducing the level of sea ice through increased sea temperatures could equally mean that those icebergs liquefy long before they reach any areas of concern.
"It's a very complicated system and there are a lot of moving parts," he says, but he claims some people are eager to ascribe meaning to the figures.
"Back in the mid-1990s, when we had thousands of icebergs, I got a call from Japanese TV who wanted to do a story on us because they believed the large number of icebergs was indicative of global warming," he says. "Then, in 1999, we had only 22 icebergs and I got a call from a European TV company who wanted to do a story because they were certain that the fact that there were only 22 bergs in the shipping lanes was a clear indication of global warming."
We forecast where we think the bergs are going using a computer model," Hicks says. "That model uses ocean currents, winds, water temperature and waves to predict where the iceberg is going to drift and how long it is going to take to melt."
Hicks admits the model is not flawless.
"In the short term it does a pretty good job," he says. "But as you go beyond six or seven days it becomes less reliable, just like a weather forecast, so that's why we patrol so often."