WELLINGTON (AFP) Jan 06, 2005
New Zealanders complaining about unseasonal summer rain in recent weeks have received proof of changing climatic conditions after icebergs were sighted in local waters for the first time since 1948.
The icebergs were see in the Southern Ocean, about 700 kilometresmiles) southeast of the South Island, the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) said Thursday.
They were a hazard to all shipping, including yachts participating in the Vendeeglobe solo round-the-world race, officials said.
The Vendeeglobe website has issued a warning to competitors after one sailor sustained minor damage to his boat when he hit an iceberg just before Christmas.
NIWA scientist Lionel Carter said 15 icebergs, some up to three kilometres wide, have been recorded.
"In 30 years of working for NIWA, this is the first time I have recorded sightings of icebergs in New Zealand waters," Carter said.
Previous reportings were in the 1890s, early 1920s, 1930s and in 1948.
In 1931 icebergs were seen as far north as near Dunedin in the South Island.
He said it was too soon to blame this flotilla of ice on global warming, although the coincidence of large collapses of the Antarctic ice shelves with a rapidly changing climate could not be dismissed.
The icebergs were expected to drift away towards South America.
All rights reserved. © 2005 Agence France-Presse. Sections of the information displayed on this page (dispatches, photographs, logos) are protected by intellectual property rights owned by Agence France-Presse. As a consequence, you may not copy, reproduce, modify, transmit, publish, display or in any way commercially exploit any of the content of this section without the prior written consent of Agence France-Presse.