The islands, which make up Canada’s northernmost archipelago, are home to a quarter of all the Arctic ice − second only to Greenland. And the flow of meltwater there from what once were frozen rivers is now a major contributor to sea level rise.
The same is true for its neighbour Alaska, and also in the Andes far to the south.
But these were based on projections of what could happen. The latest study is a report on what is happening now.
Because so many glaciers terminate at the ocean’s edge, the scientists had expected the contact with warmer ocean waters to be the primary cause of ice loss. In fact, up until 2005, around 52% of this ice loss happened when glaciers calved to deliver icebergs.
“In the past decade, as air temperatures have warmed, surface melt has increased dramatically”
Then the conditions changed. The Arctic is the fastest-warming zone on the planet, and temperatures there last November were 20°C higher than normal for that time of year. Now melting accounts for 90% of the ice loss from Canada’s biggest ice fields.
“We identified meltwater runoff as the major contributor to these ice fields’ mass loss in recent years.
“With ongoing, sustained and rapid warming of the high Arctic, the mass loss of the Queen Elizabeth Islands area is likely to continue to increase significantly in coming decades.” – Climate News Network