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

Drugs, cash, fake guns seized in Kelowna RCMP bust

A 43-year-old Kelowna woman is facing potential drug-related charges

City of West Kelowna releases proposed 2020 budget highlights

The $74.7 million operating budget includes the hiring of around eight new city staff

Suspects identified after allegedly assaulting nine Kelowna students

Jonathon Pictin and Lindsey Smith are facing charges

UPDATE: Council budgets for 11 additional cops, moves tax increase to 4.15 per cent

The mayor and council have begun their eight-hour meeting to pore through the budget line-by-line

School board approves enrollment plans at future H.S. Grenda Middle School

Only Grade 6 and 7 students will be attending Lake Country school when it opens in Sept. 2021

‘Not a decision I came to lightly:’ Scheer to resign as Conservative leader

Decision comes after weeks of Conservative infighting following the October election

‘British Columbians are paying too much’: Eby directs ICBC to delay rate application

Attorney General David Eby calls for delay in order to see how two reforms play out

Vernon bylaw says Frosty has to go: store owner

Vernon Teach and Learn told to take down inflatable snowman

VIDEO: Octopus, bald eagle battle after bird ‘bites off more than it can chew’ in B.C. waters

B.C. crew films fight between the two feisty animals in Quatsino off north Vancouver Island

Couple who bought $120k banana duct-taped to wall say artwork will be ‘iconic’

Pair compared it to Warhol’s ‘Campbell’s Soup Cans,’ which was initially ‘met with mockery’

Race to replace Andrew Scheer could be a crowded one

Many familiar faces, such as Maxime Bernier, Jason Kenney, Doug Ford and Kevin O’Leary, have said no

North Okanagan-Shuswap MP surprised by Conservative leader’s resignation

Arnold predicts Conservative party will remain united in its quest to become government

Vernon business evacuated after gas line hit

A natural gas line was struck, emergency responders unsure of size

Most Read