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Canadian Arctic Ice Caps Melt Away Earlier Than Expected

The St. Patrick Bay ice caps in Canada are now missing from new satellite imagery of National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). In a paper from 2017, it was actually predicted that the two Canadian Arctic ice caps would melt within five years. It had only been three years later since the forecast.

Glaciers gone too soon

Mark Serreze, National Snow and Ice Data Center director told CNN: “I can’t say I was terribly surprised because we knew they were going, but it has happened really fast.” The distinguished professor of geography is also one of the authors, along with his NSIDC peers, of the 2017 study that estimated melting of the ice caps.


Warming weather

The paper, published in “The Cryosphere,” compared NASA’s Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) satellite data from 2015 with aerial shots captured from 1959. What they found was the ice caps were reduced to only five percent. Data from 1959 that the larger ice cap cover three square miles while the smaller one has 1.1 square miles.

Since then, however, the decrease is more noticeable between 2014 and 2015, as summer 2015 reported elevated temperatures. With new ASTER images that were taken on July 14 of this year, the glaciers were no longer there.

According to Serreze, “We’ve long known that as climate change takes hold, the effects would be especially pronounced in the Arctic. But the death of those two little caps that I once knew so well has made climate change very personal.”

More melting

These are located on the Hazen Plateau of northeastern Ellesmere Island in Nunavut. According to scientists, the glaciers were likely formed around 5,000 years ago. They were estimated to be larger in significant amounts during what was known “Little Ice Age” between 16th and 19th centuries. Ice glaciers surrounding the St. Patrick Bay ice caps are also melting. These include the Murray and Simmons ice caps, located higher than the melted ones. Serreze predicts these would be gone in ten years.

Serreze’s first time on the St. Patrick Bay ice caps was on 1982. He was still a graduate student back then, and he came along with his advisor. “When I first visited those ice caps, they seemed like such a permanent fixture of the landscape. To watch them die in less than 40 years just blows me away,” Serreze remarked.

Laura Kent

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