Iceberg breaks apart; threatens boaters off southern tip of Argentina

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    By KIMBERLY DEMUCHA

    Mariners boating in the seas off the south tip of Argentina will be able to avoid disaster with help from a professor who makes a living on the fourth floor of the Clyde building.

    David Long, professor of electrical and computer engineering, discovered that an iceberg named B-10 located in the shipping channels off of the South Georgia island is actually breaking apart — thwarting hidden icebergs that could sink ships of Titanic proportions.

    Long spent yesterday morning hastily notifying members of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the iceberg’s deadly dissemination. He discovered the mammoth mass of ice with a satellite-assisted radar.

    “We will be able to watch the iceberg’s breakup for the first time with daily radar observation,” Long said.

    As a result of this discovery, both NASA and the National Ice Center will be issuing warnings to shippers in the area. Long said these warnings can prevent accidents like the Titanic wreck, which occurred when such technology wasn’t available.

    Today, Long, with the assistance of NASA, uses a satellite radar that he helped to invent to identify bodies of ice. The radar satellite, called the SeaWinds radar, has the ability to see images of B-10 on the earth’s surface, despite cloud coverage or other weather problems.

    According to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., the SeaWinds instrument can track pieces of the iceberg down to about four kilometers (2.5 mile) in size. Long said the B-10 is about the size of the Utah valley.

    Long has been working with the National Ice Center to track this specific iceberg because it had floated outside of their radar capability.

    Long said he currently has a research contract with NASA to keep tabs on B10.

    Since 1992, NIC has been tracking the iceberg. The huge mass has been drifting into warmer waters, causing the distribution of ice.

    During the early spring of 1999, the government tracking agency actually lost the iceberg when it drifted out of reach of their sensors. Because of tasking restrictions and weather constraints, the NIC was having difficulty collecting imagery.

    NASA, with assistance from Long, stepped in and offered help.

    With Long’s assistance, the iceberg was rediscovered.

    It wasn’t until Long discovered the iceberg via satellite that the agency was able to continue its tracking efforts.

    Long said this discovery of the iceberg’s position and crumbling nature will not only help avoid sea wrecks, but will also aid science as the tracking of the ice continues.

    “We will better understand more of the dynamics of ocean winds and climate on melting polar ice,” said Long.

    B10 is an iceberg that has taken over 1000 years to form. The NAC stated that this specific iceberg broke off of the Thwaites glacier in 1992.

    The NAC is estimating that the iceberg will completely break apart in as little as three months time.

    See related story:

    BYU professor helps National Ice Center locate lost iceberg 9/9/99

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