28 Sep 2011:
Canadian Ice Shelves
Have Lost Half Their Size in Six Years
Canada’s Arctic ice shelves, which extend from land onto the Arctic Ocean, have lost about half of their size
in the last six years, according to scientists. Using satellite imagery to monitor ice loss, researchers at Carleton University in Ottawa said the Serson Ice Shelf, which measured 205 square kilometers in 2008,
Click to enlarge
Ellesmere Island ice shelf decreases, 2005-2011
has now broken into two shelves covering a total of just 32 square kilometers. The Ellesmere Island ice shelves, which covered 8,900 square kilometers a century ago and shrunk to 1,043 square kilometers in 2005, now cover just 563 square kilometers. Derek Mueller, a Carleton researcher, says rising temperatures are not only causing the shelves to crack and melt, but also are exposing the shelves to wave action because the pack ice that once surrounded the shelves is disappearing, as well. The shelves have been around thousands of years and are typically more than 125 feet thick.
The scientists say that about 3 billion tons of ice have been lost. “This is our coastline changing,” Mueller said. “These unique and massive geographical features that we consider to be part of the map of Canada are disappearing and they won’t come back.” While the melting ice may expedite the search for new oil reserves in the region, researchers say that large pieces of the disintegrating ice shelves could increasingly threaten oil drilling rigs in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas.
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