Canada’s Milne Ice Shelf collapses

Posted by Lucinda Dordley on 7 August 2020

The Canadian Arctic’s last fully intact ice shelf has collapsed and has lost over 40% of its area in just 48 hours, according to researchers. The Milne Ice Shelf is located at the edge of Ellesmere Island, which is in the Canadian territory of Nunavut.

The loss was recorded at the end of July.

Milne Ice Shelf collapses

The Milne was Canada’s last fully intact ice shelf.

‘Above normal air temperatures, offshore winds and open water in front of the ice shelf are all part of the recipe for ice shelf break up,’ the Canadian Ice Service said on Twitter.

As reported by Reuters, Luke Copland, who is a glaciologist at the University of Ottawa, said that there are pieces of ice as large as cities. The Milne Ice Shelf lost approximately 80 square kilometres in size after collapsing.

‘This was the largest remaining intact ice shelf, and it’s disintegrated, basically,’ Copland said.

According to Copland, the Arctic has been warming at twice the global rate over the past 30 years, and this process is known as Arctic amplification. This year, however, temperatures have have increased. Record heat and wildfires have scorched Siberian Russia.

Summer in the Canadian Arctic this year in particular has been 5 °C above the 30-year average, Copland said. This has posed a danger to smaller ice caps, which are melting quickly as they do not have the bulk larger glaciers have to stay cold. As a glacier melts, it exposes more bedrock, which in turn accelerates the melting process.

‘The very small ones, we’re losing them dramatically,’ he said. ‘You feel like you’re on a sinking island chasing these features, and these are large features. It’s not as if it’s a little tiny patch of ice you find in your garden.’

The ice shelf collapse on Ellesmere Island is also the loss of the northern hemisphere’s last known epishelf lake, which is a geographic feature in which a body of freshwater is anchored by the ice shelf and floats atop ocean water.

Image: Twitter

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