The Green Icebergs of Antarctica

In the year of 1988, Stephen Warren, a glaciologist at the University of Washington, came across the Green Icebergs floating the Antarctica ocean and since then, it has become huge mythology. This has remained amidst a mystery since more than 100 of years but presently, a team from the University of Washington is believed to have solved the puzzle.

We might have heard about white or blue icebergs? But, emerald green? Sounds a bit weird right? The ice generally appears in white or blue as the water absorbs the other colors of a visible spectrum.

Mystery of green Antarctica icebergs get solved

In a study published under Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, undertaken by the American Geophysical Union, it is revealed that icebergs appear to be green due to the accumulation of iron oxides. These are in the form of rock dust from the Antarctica mainland.

Previously, these green colored icebergs were believed to be impure but recently, it has been proved that they have a pivotal role in the management of ocean life. It has the presence of a significant nutrient that has the potential to support marine life.

Amidst the various mysteries, Stephen Warren, the glaciologist, has come out with a new theory. Iron oxides are the same compounds which are known for developing red and brown rust and today, they are turning the icebergs into emerald green.

Warren states, “The iceberg can relieve this iron out into the ocean and then melt and deliver it to the phytoplankton which can use it as a nutrient.” Since the 1980s, Warren has been making impeccable initiatives and studying about the mystery behind the green icebergs.

Warren started to collect the samples from these green icebergs since 1988. The samples were accumulated from the Amery Ice Shelf in the East of Antarctica.

Warren further added that when they climbed the iceberg initially, it wasn’t the emerald green color that captured their interest rather it was the clarity generated. The ice did not have signs of any bubbles or bubble formation, thus, indicating that it was not similar to any of other icebergs present in that vicinity.

Most of the glaciers to date have mostly appeared in the shades of crystal blue and white. Generally, the nature of the ice is recognized by the life span. If the ice is in blue color, it means it is quite older. The blue color is formed due to the compression of the various accumulated snow layers which ensures to push the bubbles out of the ice. It minimizes the sprinkling of the white light which causes the bluish color.

But, the green iceberg never turned into the turquoise blue. With the immediate start of the study, Warren and his team of researchers found out that these green icebergs did not emerge from the glaciers. On the contrary, they originated from the marine ice which is found below the floating ice shelves.

Initially, it was believed that the presence of organic material was turning the ice into the green. But in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, it was revealed that the marine ice has more presence of ice than the glacial ice above it. The iron deposits are bought out from the rocks beneath the Antarctic ice sheet.


When the iron oxide merges with the sea water, the iron particles turn into greenish hue, especially in an instance, wherein, the light sprinkles through them. And when the ice splits-off, the rich iron particles take along the striking colors with them.

Warren concluded with saying that the green icebergs were always a greater mystery and were looked at with curiosity but today, it has been proved that these icebergs are important for the ocean.