What this year’s missing icebergs say about warming oceans and carbon emissions

Posted on September 01, 2021 | By Richard Woodbury | 0 Comments

Photo of a seaside community and a drawn outline of where an iceberg should be.
When it comes to global warming and ocean environments, a lost photo op is the least of our worries. – Richard Woodbury


Geographically, the province defines Iceberg Alley as stretching “from the coast of Labrador to the southeast coast of the island of Newfoundland.” This year, no icebergs were spotted south of 48 degrees north in the Northwest Atlantic, a fact that worries Marieke Gow, co-owner of the Artisan Inn and Twine Loft restaurant in Trinity, Trinity Bay.

“As a provincial marketing piece, it’s one of the things that brings one of the highest levels of attention from international tourists to Newfoundland,” she said. “It helps give us a competitive edge. If someone really wants to go see icebergs, they’re not planning a trip to Ontario.”

Gow said the publicity helps fuel demand for next year’s bookings, so she wonders what impact the lack of icebergs this year will have on demand next year. She also has concerns about how abundant icebergs will be in the years and decades to come. “Are we at a point that this is the new normal or is this just one of the slower iceberg seasons and next year it’s going to be amazing again?” said Gow.

According to a paper by two Fisheries and Oceans Canada officials published earlier this year titled “A climate index for the Newfoundland and Labrador Shelf”, iceberg numbers have been tracked since 1900 by the International Ice Patrol and the U.S. Coast Guard. The report notes that the 121-year average for annual iceberg numbers is 495. Since 1900, there have only been three years where zero icebergs were spotted: 1966, 2006 and 2021. Sprinkled in there was a booming 2019 in which 1,515 icebergs were spotted, making it the year with the seventh-largest number of sightings since 1900.

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