Nfld. & Labrador

Are we seeing more icebergs than usual? This year, you can thank the weather

Our miserable weather has to count for something, right?

Our miserable weather has to count for something, right?

A massive iceberg perches off the coast of Newfoundland's Avalon Peninsula. (Alick Tsui/Twitter)

It's a question Stephen Bruneau fields every year: are there more icebergs this season?

The Memorial University engineering professor, who has studied the icy tourism magnets for 20 years, considers 2019 a "good year."

And you can thank — in part — our testy Newfoundland and Labrador weather, Bruneau said. Wind from the north and east has brought cold, wet weather — and icebergs.

"We often have as many icebergs as we have this year but the majority can pass so far offshore that we don't even see them or beyond the banks in this area," Bruneau said.

The North American Ice Patrol compiled data on the number and location of icebergs each day. Bruneau has taken that information over the course of 12 years, which shows the ebbs and flow of iceberg frequency.

"We've had years with more. We've had years with fewer."

This map shows the number and location of icebergs as of Thursday. (North American Ice Service)

He notes that even when people can't see icebergs, it doesn't mean they don't exist far offshore. Still, Bruneau said, it's possible we are seeing "a little more than average this year."

During a visit to St. John's last week, federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna attributed the increase to climate change.

The amount of sea ice up north controls the number of glacial wonders we see each year, Bruneau said, as the sea ice protects icebergs from melting. 

"The number of icebergs that calve up in Greenland and northern islands in Canada is so huge, we get a small percentage of those actually reaching this far down south," he said.

"But if we have a year with more than average ice in that Baffin Bay, Davis Strait, Coast of Labrador, the icebergs are preserved. They don't deteriorate as quickly."

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About the Author

Ariana Kelland is a reporter with the CBC Newfoundland and Labrador bureau in St. John's.