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

LETTER: MP refutes one man’s ‘skewed’ views on immigration

‘Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but no one is entitled to their own facts’: John Aldag

VIDEO: Giants winning streak halts against Everett Friday at home in Langley

Following their first loss since November, G-Men hope to regroup and defeat Victoria on Saturday.

Two local squads meet up at senior girls tourney in Langley

The 2018 Girls Tsumura Invitational continues Saturday with the finals.

Kazakhstan’s U20 team takes 4-3 win over Langley university squad

Thursday night’s game is one of three the visitors are playing at the Langley Events Centre.

Trudeau to make it harder for future PM to reverse Senate reforms

Of the 105 current senators, 54 are now independents who have banded together in Independent Senators’ Group

Janet Jackson, Def Leppard, Nicks join Rock Hall of Fame

Radiohead, the Cure, Roxy Music and the Zombies will also be ushered in at the 34th induction ceremony

Supreme Court affirms privacy rights for Canadians who share a computer

Section 8 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects Canadians against unreasonable search and seizure

B.C. fire chief pleads with Ottawa for traumatic stress support

Campbell River fire chief Thomas Doherty presented concerns to federal government

37% of Metro Vancouver sees real estate industry as ‘extremely corrupt’

Report comes as the B.C. government continues to probe alleged links of money laundering in casinos to real estate

‘I practically begged’: Kootenay woman with breast cancer denied referral to Calgary

Breast cancer patient left to fight disease alone after being denied referral to Calgary

21 detained before Paris protests as police deploy in force

There was a strong police presence outside the central Saint Lazare train station, where police in riot gear checked bags

Media, robotics, Indigenous studies coming to B.C. Grade 12 classrooms in 2019-20

Provincial tests are also being changed for students in Grade 10 to 12, the Education Ministry said

ICBC to apply for 6.3% hike to basic insurance rates

Crown Corporation said it will be submitting its next basic rate application to the British Columbia Utilities Commission Friday

Most Read