New ice2sea study shows Canada’s Arctic Archipelago glaciers will melt faster than ever in the next few centuries
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Along with Arctic sea ice, a new study from the EU ice2sea program indicates that 20 percent of Canada’s Arctic glaciers are likely to melt by the end of the century, adding about 3.5 centimeters (1.4 inches) of sea level rise.
After testing the accuracy of their model against observed melting in the region the past 10 years, the scientists projected the findings into the future. Even under moderate greenhouse gas emissions and global warming scenarios, the ice loss in Canada’s northern archipelago is now irreversible.
“Even if we assume that global warming is not happening quite so fast, it is still highly likely that the ice is going to melt at an alarming rate. The chances of it growing back are very slim,” said lead author Dr. Jan Lenaerts, of Utrecht University.
Melting tundra snow, and sea ice loss from around the glaciers, reinforce regional warming, with significant consequences for the glaciers of Northern Canada. For now, snow and sea ice reflect the sunlight, and when the snow and sea ice have disappeared, a large part of the sunlight will be absorbed by the land and the sea, which will significantly increase the local temperature.
In one scenario, the volumes of the glaciers declined 20 percent by the end of the century, with an average global temperature increase of 3 degrees Celsius, and an increase of 8 degrees Celsius in the vicinity of the Canadian archipelago — not an extreme climate outlook, according to Lenaerts.
Canada’s Arctic glaciers represent the third largest ice body in the world after Greenland and the Antarctic. A complete meltdown of the Canadian ice caps melt would raise average global average sea level will rise by 20 centimeters. Temperatures in the region have already climbed by 1 to 2 degrees Celsius since 2000 and the ice volume has already significantly decreased.
“Most attention goes out to Greenland and Antarctica, which is understandable because they are the two largest ice bodies in the world,” said Utrecht University Professor Michiel van den Broeke. “However, with this research we want to show that the Canadian ice caps should be included in the calculations,” said van den Broeke, one of the paper’s co-authors.
“The Canadian archipelago is an area where climate is changing rapidly, and the glaciers here contain enough ice that we should not ignore their contribution to sea-level rise,” said ice2sea program leader David Vaughan, with the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge.
“Added to glaciers in Alaska, the Russian Arctic and Patagonia, these apparently small contributions add up to significant sea-level rise,” Vaugh said. “A key success of this study was in showing that the model performed well in reproducing recently observed changes. That success gives us confidence in how the model predicts future changes.”
The results of the research, part of the EU funded ice2sea programme, will be published in Geophysical Research Letters this week, and the paper is now available online.