As arctic temperatures keep rising, last intact ice shelf of Canadian Arctic disintegrates

The ice shelf was located in Ellesmere Island

Credit : Reuters

The last intact ice shelf of Canada’s Arctic has collapsed at the end of July, announced researchers this week. A tweet by the ECCC Canadian Ice Service, on August 5, announced that satellite animation from July 30 to August 4 shows the collapse of the last fully intact Milne Ice Shelf in Canadian Arctic into the Arctic Ocean. The ice shelf, which was located in Ellesmere Island in the northern Canadian territory of Nunavut, produced a 79 square kilometre ice island. It has reduced by 43 percent, as per the Canadian Ice Service.



Alarmingly, the ice shelf lost more than 40 percent of its area in just two days at the end of July, stated a report by Reuters. The Canadian Ice Service has attributed the ice shelf break up to above normal air temperatures, offshore winds and open water in front of the ice shelf.

“Entire cities are that size. These are big pieces of ice. This was the largest remaining intact ice shelf, and it’s disintegrated, basically," said Luke Copland, a glaciologist at the University of Ottawa who was part of the research team studying the Milne Ice Shelf in the Reuters report.

This year, the summer in the Canadian Arctic has been 5 degrees Celsius above the 30-year average, which is making it difficult for the smaller ice caps to sustain, as they tend to melt quickly in the absence of the bulk that the large glaciers have that enable them to stay colder. Melting glaciers also expose more bedrock, which again amplifies the ice melting process. Local Canadian news reports in July this year also pointed out that the sea ice in the eastern Canadian Arctic is melting at an above-average rate, in comparison with the satellite records of the last 50 years.

As per a scientific paper, ‘The polar regions in a 2°C warmer world’ published in the Science Advanced journal in December 2019, the Arctic is warming much faster than anywhere else in the world, that is, while the Earth has warmed by approximately 0.8°C since the late 19th century, over the same period, the Arctic temperatures have risen by 2° to 3°C.

"One of the major potential consequences of rapid and pronounced arctic warming is the development of an ice-free summer Arctic Ocean, which will have large-scale environmental consequences that reach beyond the northern high latitudes. Arctic sea-ice loss encompasses all calendar months, with the largest trends in late summer and the smallest in winter,” the authors of the paper go on to say.