Priceless Canadian Loss from Ice Shelf Collapse

Satellite images and seismic monitors have confirmed that some 16 months ago an ancient ice shelf broke off from Ellesmere Island in the northern most part of Canada.

The separation took place on August 13, 2005 when the Arctic summer was 3ËšC higher than normal and crucial ice pack was blown away from protecting the ice shelf.

According to the Canadian scientists involved, this is a huge change. It offers a glimpse into what the future holds–a full-scale disappearing act by Arctic ice before 2040.

Warwick Vincentn of Laval University has traveled to see the ice shelf and concludes:

We can say it is consistent with the larger body of evidence indicating the climate is warming and predictions that the greatest effects are likely to take place at high latitudes.

He also makes an astute observation: “People talk of endangered animals — well, these are endangered landscape features, and we’re losing them.”

Right he is, and we just witnessed a rare ice shelf begin to float off and melt away.

6 Responses to Priceless Canadian Loss from Ice Shelf Collapse

  1. CarlD says:

    > He also makes an astute observation: “People talk of endangered animals > — well, these are endangered landscape features, and we’re losing them.”

    Yes, and it was certainly a major tourist attraction, wasn’t it?

  2. hippie with a pistol says:

    From the story:
    “The scientists say they can’t prove human-induced climate change caused the Ayles shelf to break off, but they suspect global warming may be responsible.”

    Are you blaming this on warmer temperatures only and excluding the wide variety of climate factors that affect the Artic ice melting and recovery cycle?

    It seems to be so, since you don’t talk about a major factor – the increased decline in Artic ice being triggered by a stonger Artic Oscillation in between 1989-95, moving thicker and older ice out of the Artic, leaving thinner and younger ice that is more prone to melting. There have certainly been warmer Artic temperatures in the past decade, but the remaining younger ice will is not able to recover as robustly after the latest positive phase of the AO.

    And isn’t it true that the available record of sea ice cover is very short? What is your reference point? 1900? 1950? 1979?

  3. Kari says:

    To start, it is impossible to prove that global warming causes any one event. Likewise, it is impossible to disprove that global warming causes any one event. Scientists only just confirmed that this ice shelf broke off, and that took over a year. In the article, the break is also attributed to a change in wind. The conclusion early after its confirmation that this event is consistent with predictions of global warming’s impact is just as important a factor as any other.

    Yes, the record for Arctic sea ice is short, as it only dates back to 1979. However, the article provides a point of reference: “The shelves are 90 per cent smaller than they were when Arctic explorer Robert Peary crossed them in 1906.”

    As for the Arctic Oscillation, the latest State of the Arctic Report from NOAA summarizes:

    “A positive AO [Arctic Oscillation], characterized by a cyclonic atmospheric circulation regime, creates conditions that favor a relatively low sea ice extent. This relationship was clearly evident during the strong positive AO pattern that persisted from 1989 to 1995. Since then, the annual averaged AO index has been exhibiting more neutral conditions, which should support a reversal or, at least, a deceleration in the overall rate of reduction in the extent of the ice cover. Instead, 2002–2005 has been characterized by an unprecedented series of extreme ice extent minima.”

    And as the effects of the Arctic Oscillation being felt less, the decline of Arctic sea ice is actually faster now than it was a few years ago. According to the World Meteorological Organization, the rate of decline is over eight percent per decade. In a 2005 edition of the Journal of Climate, from the American Meteorological Society, R.W. Lindsey and J. Zhang published that, “The trend in the September ice extent for the period 1979–2004 is -7.7% per decade (Stroeve et al. 2005), a value twice as large as that reported for the shorter period 1979–95 (Serreze et al. 2000).”

    It is melting, it’s melting faster than before, and simple science tells us that heat causes melting. Warmer temperatures may not be the sole factor, but they are undeniable.

  4. xxxx4 says:

    Why is it that 90% of reputable scientists of all subspecialties agree that climate change due to human activities is a given, yet buffoons like CarlD and Hippie with a pistol (which sort of says it all) continue to spout the propaganda fed to them by “scientists” hired by big oil, big business, big greed, unless they are sent here hired by them also.

  5. hippie with a pistol says:

    In the State of the Artic Report that Kari cited you will find:
    “When the AO is positive, atmospheric and oceanic conditions favor a thinner ice cover. A younger, thinner ice cover, such as the one left behind from this event, is more susceptible to atmospheric or oceanic warming. It is of great interest to observe whether the sea ice cover will continue its decline or rebound under the recent, more-neutral AO conditions.”

    You also state that the ice is melting faster than before. What is before? We have seen similar melting rates before, although the 2005 summer melt was longer than previous years in the satellite era.

    Joe over-states the science:
    “a full-scale disappearing act by Arctic ice before 2040”. Holland’s paper is looking at abrupt changes in Artic climate. If I recall correctly, the paper is looking at 2040 is a possible tipping point for an almost complete receding of Artic ice at the end of the summer melt. But other runs of the model show that may happen much later. By picking one scenario from Holland’s paper while ignorinig others Joe is showing his bias in reporting on Holland’s study.

    Maybe xxxx4 will cite a attribution study for the Artic that finds the current climate conditions in the Artic are due to human activities? Name calling is not an argument or scientific evidence.

  6. Joe says:

    2040 is not even the earliest prediction for an ice-free Arctic. New research suggests that the summer Arctic could be ice-free far sooner than anyone ever imagined. Simply looking at the shrinking area of the Arctic ice misses an even more alarming decline in its thickness and hence its volume. At a May 2006 seminar sponsored by the American Meteorological Society, Dr. Wieslaw Maslowski of the Oceanography Department at the Naval Postgraduate School reported that models suggest the Arctic lost one third of its ice volume from 1997 to 2002. He made an alarming forecast: “If this trend persists for another 10 years—and it has through 2005—we could be ice free in the summer.”