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13 Apr 2010: Canadian Ice Sheet
Is Melting Rapidly, Study Shows

One of the largest ice sheets in Canada’s high Arctic has been swiftly shrinking in recent decades as a result of warmer summers, according to a new study. The 895-square-mile ice cap on Devon Island, an uninhabited island in Baffin Bay, has declined steadily since 1985, according to analysis by scientists at the University of Calgary. Because the remote Arctic area is essentially a desert, with minimal annual
Devon Island
S. Boon, L. Copland
Researchers collect data in 2008
precipitation, any increase of snow takes years to accumulate as glaciers and ice sheets, said Sarah Boon, lead author of the paper published in Arctic, a journal of the university’s Arctic Institute of North America. As a result, the equilibrium of the environment is easily upset. The retreating ice exposes dark soil and gravel that absorb heat and increases melting along the cap’s edges and at lower altitudes, Boon said. And meltwater seeping to the bottom of the glacier is creating a slippery surface on which the glacier slides more easily than it would during colder conditions. While researchers say the trend began in 1985, a series of unusually warm summers from 2001 to 2008 accelerated the melting. One of the results, Boon said, is an increasing number of icebergs calving from outlet glaciers and slipping into the Arctic Ocean. The research is based on data collected by the Arctic Institute since 1961.


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