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Loss of floating glacier tongues from the Yelverton Bay region, Ellesmere Island, Canada

  • ADRIENNE WHITE (a1) and LUKE COPLAND (a1)

Abstract

A total of eight floating glacier tongues have shrunk in area by >85% from the Yelverton Bay region of Northern Ellesmere Island since 1959, with unusually large losses since 2005. To better understand the causes of these losses, this study undertakes the first examination of ice tongue changes in this region, including an assessment of changes in surrounding marine ice (i.e. sea ice, sikussak and mélange), and atmospheric and oceanographic forcings. From 1959 to 2017, the total ice tongue area decreased by 49.07 km2, with the majority of this loss occurring from 2005 to 2009 (34.68 km2). The loss of ice tongues since 2005 occurred when open water replaced multi-year landfast sea ice (MLSI) and first-year sea ice in the regions adjacent to the ice tongues. These changes were accompanied by an increase in mean annual mid-depth (i.e. 100 and 200 m) ocean temperatures from −0.29°C from 1999 to 2005 to 0.67°C from 2006 to 2012. Despite the recent return of ocean temperatures to below pre-2006 levels, atmospheric summer temperatures have continued to rise (+0.15°C decade−1 between 1948 and 2016), with open water continuing to occur. Without the sustained presence of MLSI in this region the ice tongues are unable to stabilize, making it unlikely that they will re-form in the current climate.

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Copyright

This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Corresponding author

Correspondence: Adrienne White <awhit059@uottawa.ca>

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