Ice floats in Slidre Fjord outside the Eureka Weather Station on Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, Monday, July 24, 2006. New research finds that hundreds of glaciers in Canada’s High Arctic are shrinking and that many are likely fated to disappear. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Hundreds of Arctic glaciers shrinking, disappearing

Out of 1,773 glaciers, 1,353 shrank significantly between 2000 and 2016

The statistics in her recently published paper say it all: hundreds of glaciers in Canada’s High Arctic are shrinking and many are likely to disappear completely.

But for Adrienne White, seven field seasons along the northern reaches of Ellesmere Island give the numbers real-world immediacy.

“I’ve been actually able to see with my own eyes, to the point where there were some areas I couldn’t recognize between years,” said White, a University of Ottawa glaciologist.

“One year you’re Ski-Dooing over the ridges of these ice shelves, and then you go back the year after and (it’s) like a city of icebergs.”

RELATED: 4-mile iceberg breaks off eastern Greenland

White has catalogued and studied the condition of more than 1,700 glaciers on the High Arctic island both on the ground and from satellite imagery. She looked at glaciers on land and flowing into the ocean as well as at ice shelves floating on top of the sea.

Out of 1,773 glaciers, 1,353 shrank significantly between 2000 and 2016. All of them shrank a little bit, said White.

“What I saw when I was measuring was 100 per cent of glaciers retreating,” she said. “They all retreated. Nothing is growing.”

White found glaciers lost more than 1,700 square kilometres. That’s a loss of almost six per cent over a period of 16 years.

Most of these glaciers probably aren’t coming back.

The Canadian Arctic is experiencing some of the fastest climate warming anywhere on Earth. The annual average temperature on Ellesmere Island has increased by 3.6 degrees.

Data from other points in the Arctic suggest rising temperatures mean the elevation needed for snow to last through the summer has risen by 300 metres.

White found most of Ellesmere’s glaciers are no longer high enough to accumulate snow.

“I don’t see snow surviving throughout the summer,” she said. ”You need that year-long snow to be able to accumulate and create more ice and I just don’t see that.

“Over 50 per cent of the glaciers are completely in the ablation zone, (where) 100 per cent of the glacier area is undergoing melt. No part of that glacier is creating more ice.”

White’s work echoes earlier research that found Ellesmere’s glaciers began shrinking several decades before her study began. Although she’s not able to say whether that retreat is speeding up, the rate of warming is increasing.

Until the mid-1990s, the average temperature climbed about 0.12 degrees per decade. From 1995 to 2016, the increase was 0.78 degrees per decade.

It’s hard to say what the consequences of shrinking glaciers will be, said White. There will be some impact on sea level rise and the melting ice is likely to release more and larger icebergs into the water, she said.

Little is known about the area, which is so remote that until recently it couldn’t even be found on Google Earth. One thing is certain, though, said White.

“It is a big change.”

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

B.C. BUDGET: Surplus $374 million after bailouts of BC Hydro, ICBC

Growth projected stronger in 2020, Finance Minister Carole James says

First residents move into Nuxalk Nation’s tiny homes

Four of the tiny homes are now complete and residents have moved in

Province announces $100-million grant funding for Northwest communities

The Northern Capital and Planning Grant will go to four regional districts and 22 municipalities

All Native Basketball Tournament Day 5: Recap

Highlights and results from day 5 at the All Native Tournament

Students give two thumbs up to no more B.C. student loan interest

Eliminating the loan interest charges could save the average graduate $2,300 over 10 years

Ontario man accused of killing 11-year-old daughter dies in hospital, police say

Roopesh Rajkumar had been hospitalized with what police described as a self-inflicted gunshot wound

Manitoba ‘pauses’ link with ex-B.C. premier Gordon Campbell after allegations

Campbell had been hired to review two major hydro projects

Heritage minute features Japanese-Canadian baseball team, internment

The Vancouver Asahi baseball team won various championships across the Pacific Northwest

UPDATE: Woman, off-duty cop in critical condition after stabbing outside B.C. elementary school

The officer was interceding in an alleged assault when he and the woman were stabbed

$10-a-day child care not in 2019 budget, but advocate not irked

Sharon Gregson with the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of B.C. says NDP on track to deliver promise

B.C. Seniors Advocate questions labour shortage in care homes

Are there really no workers, or are care aide wages too low?

B.C. business groups worry about looming economic decline in wake of NDP budget

The party’s second government budget focused on plenty of spending, business advocates say

Man injured in police shooting near Nelson has died: B.C. police watchdog

The death follows an incident in Bonnington on Feb. 13

Most Read