University of Ottawa Dr. Luke Copland and a team of scientists report massive ice shelf loss

    OTTAWA, Sept. 3 /CNW Telbec/ - A team of scientists, including Dr. Luke
Copland, director of the Laboratory for Cryospheric Research at the University
of Ottawa reports that the entire 50 km2 Markham Ice Shelf broke away in early
August and is now adrift in the Arctic Ocean. Two large sections of ice
detached from the Serson Ice Shelf, shrinking this ice feature by 60 per cent
(122 km2).
    Following the widely reported July calving, the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf in
the Canadian Arctic also continued to break-up, losing an additional 22 km2.
This summer's ice shelf loss totals 214 km2, which is over three times the
area of Manhattan Island. The detached pieces of ice shelves have broken into
numerous 'ice islands' (tabular icebergs) whose fate could take many forms.
    "Reduced sea ice conditions and unusually high air temperatures have
facilitated the ice shelf losses this summer" explained Dr. Luke Copland. "And
extensive new cracks across remaining parts of the largest remaining ice
shelf, the Ward Hunt, mean that it will continue to disintegrate in the coming
years." This means that Quttinirpaaq National Park, Canada's most northerly,
may soon lose its last remaining ice shelf after the loss of its other ice
shelf, the Markham, this summer.
    Dr. Derek Mueller, who has been studying the far north of Canada as the
Roberta Bondar Fellow in Northern and Polar Studies at Trent University says
these changes are irreversible under the present climate and indicate that the
environmental conditions that have kept these ice shelves in balance for
4,000 years are no longer present.
    This research was undertaken in collaboration with the Canadian Ice
Service with logistical support from Polar Shelf (Natural Resources Canada)
and the Canadian Rangers (National Defence). Luc Hardy of Pax Arctica, an
initiative in collaboration with Green Cross International, provided satellite
imagery. Financial assistance was provided by ArcticNet, Canadian Foundation
for Innovation and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council
(NSERC) of Canada.
    The Ellesmere ice shelves are composed of ancient sea ice and accumulated
snow along with glacier ice in some cases. Up to 4,500 years old and
approximately 40 m thick, these features are vastly different from ordinary
sea ice. More than 90 per cent of Canada's ice shelves have been lost over the
past century, with most of these losses occurring during a warm period in the
1930s and 1940s. Temperatures in the Arctic are now even higher than they were
then and a period of renewed ice shelf break-up has ensued since 2002.

For further information:

For further information: visit Canadian Ice Service at,; Dr. Luke Copland (English
only), Department of Geography, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON, (613)
562-5800, ext. 2826,; Dr. Derek Mueller (English and
French), Geography Department, Trent University, Peterborough, ON, (705)
748-1011, ext. 7153,; Julie Tanguay, Media Relations
Officer, University of Ottawa, (613) 562-5800, ext 3137,

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