Canada’s last fully intact Arctic ice shelf collapses

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Canada: The last fully intact ice shelf in the Canadian Arctic has collapsed, losing more than 40% of its area in just two days in late July, researchers said on Thursday.
The Milne Ice Shelf is on the shores of Ellsmere Island, which is heavily populated in the northern Canadian region of Nunnut.
“Above normal air temperatures, icy winds and exposed water in front of the ice shelf are a recipe for ice shelf breakdown,” the Canadian Ice Service said on Twitter, announcing the damage on Sunday.
“The entire city is that size. These are large pieces of ice,” said Luke Copeland, a glaciologist at the University of Ottawa, who was part of the research team studying the Milan Ice Shelf.
The shelf area shrunk to about 80 square kilometers. By comparison, the island of Manhattan in New York is spread over about 60 square kilometers.
“It was the largest remaining intact ice shelf, and it basically disintegrated,” Copeland said.
The Arctic has been warming at twice the global rate for the past 30 years due to a process known as Arctic amplification. But this year the temperature in the polar region has been intense. Polar sea ice crossed its lowest limit for July in 40 years. Record heat and wildfires have scorched Siberian Russia.
Copeland said summer in the Canadian Arctic this year is 5 degrees Celsius above the 30-year average.
This has endangered small ice caps, which can melt quickly because they do not have the bulk that large glaciers have to cool. As the glaciers disappear, more bedcovers emerge, which then melts and accelerates the melting process.
“Very small ones, we’re losing them dramatically,” he said, citing researchers’ reviews of satellite imagery. “You feel like you’re on a drowning island chasing these features, and these are big features. It’s not like it’s a small patch of ice that you find in your garden.”
The ice shelf collapse on Ellesmere Island also means the loss of the last known epithelial lake in the Northern Hemisphere, a geographic feature in which a body of freshwater is damaged by an ice shelf and floats above sea water.
A research camp, which included equipment to measure water flow through the ice shelf, when the shelf collapsed. “Luckily when we were on the ice shelf,” said researcher Derek Muller of the University of Ottawa’s Carlatan in an August 2 blog post.
Allesmere also lost two of its St. Patrick’s Bay ice caps this summer.
“We looked at them, as if someone has terminal cancer. It was only a matter of time,” said Mark Serrez, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado.
Serreze and other NSIDC scientists published a 2017 study speculating that ice caps were likely to disappear within five years. Snowflakes are believed to have formed many centuries ago.
The disappearance was confirmed last month, when a complete lack of snow and ice was detected in NASA satellite shots of the area, said Ceres, who studied the hat years ago as a graduate student on his first trip to the Arctic Was. At the time, he said, the cap looked like immovable parts of geography.
“When I was there in the 1980s, I knew every square inch of those snow,” he said. “You have memories. It’s like your first girlfriend.”
Meanwhile, Ellesmere – another two ice caps called Murray and Simmons are also shrinking and are likely to disappear within 10 years.

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