Green Icebergs Revisited

Document Type


Publication Title

Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans


Ice crystals form in supercooled seawater beneath several Antarctic ice shelves; as they rise to the ice-shelf base they scavenge particles from the water and incorporate them into the growing basal ice. The resulting marine ice can be ~100 m thick; it differs from sea ice in that it is clear, desalinated, and bubble-free. Icebergs of marine ice vary in color from blue to green, depending on the nature and abundance of foreign constituents in the seawater that became trapped in the ice as it grew. A red or yellow material (i.e., one that absorbs blue light), in combination with the blue of ice, can shift the wavelength of minimum absorption to green. Previously, dissolved organic carbon (DOC) had been proposed to be responsible for the green color. Subsequent measurements of low DOC values in green icebergs, together with the recent finding of large concentrations of iron in marine ice from the Amery Ice Shelf, suggest that the color of green icebergs is caused more by iron-oxide minerals than by DOC. These icebergs travel great distances from their origin; when they melt they can deliver iron as a nutrient to the Southern Ocean.

First Page


Last Page




Publication Date