Two important environmental events have happened quite recently, one is the splitting off of a massive iceberg from the Antarctica ice shelf towards the Weddell Sea, and the other being the eruption of Mount Nyiragongo in the DRC.

To an ordinary person, the two events can be lumped up into a general phrase of “nature at work”, which to some extent may be true. However, from an environmental conservation perspective the two events are just enough to draw a line between natural events and human induced occurrences.

The Antarctic ice shelf has remained intact for a long time. In most instances, more environmental concerns has been about the activities leading to thawing of the Arctic with little or no serious happenings down the southern ice fields in Antarctica.

Prior to the breaking away of the iceberg, higher than normal temperatures had been recorded by satellite observations over the southern hemisphere. In fact, scientific commentaries about the calving of the iceberg which is now named A-76 from the Ronne Ice Shelf attribute it to ablation. It is through the ablation process that massive ice shelves accumulated over centuries restore normal heart rhythm within them. If this hypothesis is true then the million-dollar question is what triggered the process of this restoration of heat rhyme within the ice.

In the current century, radiation forcing as a result of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities has been found to result in abnormal global heat balance and a rise in atmospheric temperature. So, the plucking away of the A-76 from the Ronne Ice Shelf could be attributable to increased radiative forcing over Antarctica.

On the other hand, the eruption of Mount Nyiragongo in the DRC has habitants of  Goma and its surrounding Kivu area scampering for safety. Being an active volcano, its eruption was a natural event that is largely a consequence of tectonic activities underneath. Natural as this process may be, the volcano gushed a lot of lava, heat, volcanic ash, and other gases including volcanic carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide. These emissions have the potential of contributing to global warming as well.

Cover image credit: “Iceberg, Weddell Sea” by Scott Ableman is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Text image credit: “Fire and brimstone” by Baron Resnick is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0