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Canada’s Last Fully Intact Ice Shelf Has Collapsed

by : Lucy Connolly on : 07 Aug 2020 15:02
NASA

The Canadian Arctic’s last fully intact ice shelf has collapsed, losing more than 40% of its area in the space of just two days last month, researchers have said.

The Milne Ice Shelf, located on the edge of Ellesmere Island in the sparsely populated northern Canadian territory of Nunavut, shrank by approximately 80 square kilometres towards the end of July.

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To put that into perspective, the city of Brighton in East Sussex covers roughly the same area (82.79 square kilometres), so just imagine the ice shelf shrinking by that much. Alternatively, the island of Manhattan in New York covers roughly 60 square kilometres.

The Canadian Ice Service announced the loss on Sunday, August 2, in a tweet describing the factors that ultimately contributed to the break-up.

‘A huge section of the Milne #IceShelf has collapsed into the #Arctic Ocean,’ the tweet read. ‘Above normal air temperatures, offshore winds and open water in front of the ice shelf are all part of the recipe for ice shelf break up.’

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A follow-up tweet posted two days later shared satellite images from July 30 to August 4 showing the collapse of the ice shelf, explaining it was now reduced in area by 43%.

The Arctic has been warming at twice the global rate for the past 30 years due to a process known as Arctic amplification, however this year in particular has seen higher temperatures than usual.

This summer has been 5°C above the 30 year average, Luke Copland, a glaciologist at the University of Ottawa who was part of the research team studying the Milne Ice Shelf, told Reuters.

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As such, smaller ice caps – which can melt quickly because they don’t have the bulk that larger glaciers have to stay cold – have been threatened. ‘The very small ones, we’re losing them dramatically,’ Copland said.

eureka sound ice shelfNASA

He added:

You feel like you’re on a sinking island chasing these features, and these are large features. It’s not as if it’s a little tiny patch of ice you find in your garden.

Entire cities are that size. These are big pieces of ice. This was the largest remaining intact ice shelf, and it’s disintegrated, basically.

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But it isn’t just the ice shelf collapse researchers are mourning; the collapse on Ellesmere Island also meant the loss of the northern hemisphere’s last known epishelf lake, in which a body of freshwater is dammed by the ice shelf and floats atop ocean water.

Polar Ice Caps Melting Six Times Faster Than In 1990sPexels

Ellesmere also lost its two St. Patrick Bay ice caps this summer, with its last two remaining ice caps – Simmons and Murray – expected to disappear within the next 10 years, according to Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado.

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Lucy Connolly

A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).

Topics: News, Arctic, Canada, Climate Change, Environment, Now

Credits

ECCC Canadian Ice Service/Twitter and 2 others
  1. ECCC Canadian Ice Service/Twitter

    @ECCC_CIS

  2. ECCC Canadian Ice Service/Twitter

    @ECCC_CIS

  3. Reuters

    Canada's last fully intact Arctic ice shelf collapses