Trent University Research Contributes to Findings in Statistics Canada Publication


Glaciological Measurements by Geography Department Point to Climate Change

Wednesday, November 3, 2010, Peterborough

Research conducted by Trent University faculty and students for the past three decades has contributed to a national collaboration that reveals climate change in the shrinking of glaciers, as published by Statistics Canada in an article entitled, “Trends in Glacier Mass Balance for Six Canadian glaciers,” available in EnviroStats, (Fall 2010, Vol. 4. No.3), from the key resource module of the Statistics Canada website

“An interesting thing about the article,” explains Dr. Graham Cogley, a geography professor at Trent, “is its assertion that mass balance provides ’one of the clearest signals found in nature to monitor ongoing trends in climate’." Prof. Cogley adds, “Even if the thermometer had never been invented, glacier monitoring would tell us reliably that the climate is changing, and what is more, that it is changing faster now than a few decades ago.”

The article examines the cumulative mass balance of six Canadian glaciers, marking the difference between accumulation and ablation (mass loss) in annual measurements over a number of years. The general findings, consistent with international research, show that rapid glacier shrinkage has been taking place over the past century. Data used in the article was derived from Natural Resources Canada, obtained from research conducted in partnership with several government departments and universities, including Trent.

The White Glacier on Axel Heiberg Island, Nunavut, one of the six Canadian glaciers featured in the article, has been the focus of Trent Glaciology researchers in the Geography Department under Prof. Cogley since 1984. Professor Emeritus Dr. Peter Adams has been involved with the work since its inception at McGill University in 1959. Trent has been measuring the glacier for more than half of the period of record. The White Glacier has the longest record of the six glaciers featured in the Statistics Canada article.

“When the measurements began, they were notable because the glaciers were located at a high latitude of 80 degrees north,” explains Prof. Adams. “People became aware that these were latitudes which would be most affected by the warming climate, as predicted by global models.”

Annual field expeditions with Trent students have been led by Mr. Miles Ecclestone, a technician in the Geography Department who holds the record for scientific time spent at the research station. Other Trent staff and students to have visited the station include Dr. Jim Buttle, Greg Crocker, Peter Doran, Mike English, Frederik Jung-Rothenhäusler, Don Pierson, Candice Stuart and many others.

The Trent program has been supported financially by Canada's National Glaciology Program (Terrain Sciences Division, Geological Survey of Canada) and logistically by the Polar Continental Shelf Project (Natural Resources Canada) and, through its long-term operation of the McGill Arctic Research Station, by McGill University. Student assistants are often supported by the Northern Science Training Program.


For more information, please contact: Professor Graham Cogley, Department of Geography, (705) 748-1011 ext. 7686,