May 31, 2011

Ice Loss in Canadian Arctic Archipeligo

From the NASA Earth Observatory: 
Though much attention has been focused in recent years on the melting of ice from Greenland and Antarctica, nearly half of the ice volume currently being lost to the ocean is actually coming from other mountain glaciers and ice caps. Ice loss from a group of islands in northern Canada accounts for much of that volume.
In a study published in April 2011 in the journal Nature, a team of researchers led by Alex Gardner of the University of Michigan found that land ice in both the northern and southern Canadian Arctic Archipelago has declined sharply. The maps above show ice loss from surface melting for the northern portion of the archipelago from 2004–2006 (left) and 2007–2009 (right). Blue indicates ice gain, and red indicates ice loss.
In the six years studied, the Canadian Arctic Archipelago lost an average of approximately 61 gigatons of ice per year. (A gigaton is a billion tons of ice.) The research team also found the rate of ice loss was accelerating. From 2004 to 2006, the average mass loss was roughly 31 gigatons per year; from 2007 to 2009, the loss increased to 92 gigatons per year. . . .During the 2004 to 2009 study period, the Canadian Arctic Archipelago experienced four of its five warmest years since 1960, likely fueling the melting.
Gardner notes that from 2001 to 2004, the sum of melting from all mountain glaciers and ice caps around the world (but not the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets) contributed an estimated 1 millimeter per year to global sea level rise. Recent estimates suggest the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets add another 1.3 millimeters per year to sea level. “This means 1 percent of the land ice volume—mountain glaciers and ice caps—account for about half of all ice loss to the world’s oceans,” Gardner said. “Most of the ice loss is coming from the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, Alaska, Patagonia, the Himalayas, and the smaller ice masses surrounding the main Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets.”

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