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Scientists and Canadian Rangers Discover Further Break-Up of Arctic Ice Shelves


Trent University’s Dr. Derek Mueller Confirms Irreversible Losses Due to Climate Change

Monday, April 14, 2008, Eureka, Nunavut

Photo Credit: Denis SarrazinA team of scientists including polar expert Dr. Derek Mueller from Trent University and Canadian Rangers have discovered that the largest ice shelf in the Northern Hemisphere has fractured into three main pieces. During their sovereignty patrol across the northernmost parts of Canada over the last two weeks, they visited a new 18 kilometre-long network of cracks running from the southern edge of the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf to the Arctic Ocean. This accompanies a large central fracture that was first detected in 2002, and raises the concern that the remaining ice shelf will disintegrate within the next few years.

Evidence of these cracks first came from Radarsat satellite images in February. Confirmation came from Canadian Rangers, partnering with International Polar Year scientists during Operation NUNALIVUT 08, a Canadian Forces High Arctic sovereignty patrol. Rangers mapped the extent of the fissures and monitored melt rates for Quttinirpaaq National Park, which encompasses the ice shelf.

The patrol scientists also found that the nearby Petersen Ice Shelf lost over a third of its surface area in the past three years. This ice shelf calved following the break-up of landfast sea ice in the summer of 2005 and 2007, which had protected it from the open ocean.

“Canadian ice shelves have undergone substantial changes in the past six years, starting with the first break-up event on the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf, and the loss of the Ayles Ice Shelf,” said Dr. Luke Copland of the University of Ottawa. “These latest break-ups we are seeing have come after decades of warming and are irreversible,” said Dr. Derek Mueller of Trent University. Only five large ice shelves remain in Arctic Canada, covering less than a tenth of the area than they did a century ago.

For further information, please visit the project website.

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For more information, please contact:

Brittany Cadence
Communications Officer
Trent University
(705) 748-1011, ext. 6185

Summer Halliday
Senior Communications Advisor
Joint Task Force (North)
Ph: 867-873-0700 ext. 6922
Cell: 867-765-8624
Email: halliday.sd@forces.gc.ca

Alternatively, please contact Canadian IPY project leaders:
Warwick Vincent (Lead Investigator – Canada)
Université Laval
Ph: 418-656-5644
Email: warwick.vincent@bio.ulaval.ca

IPY Fate and State of the Polar Cryosphere
Anne Walker (Lead Investigator - Canada)
Environment Canada
Ph: 416-739-4357
Email: anne.walker@ec.gc.ca

Or the Canadian Ice Service:
Canadian Ice Service
Trudy Wohlleben (Lead - International Polar Year)
Ottawa, Ontario
Ph: 613-996-0816
Email: trudy.wohlleben@ec.gc.ca