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ALERT: Canadian Glaciers are Melting 900 Percent Faster in the Past Decade

Feb 15, 2017 09:13 AM EST
Warming climate is causing the glaciers and ice caps in Queen Elizabeth Islands, Canada to melt nine times faster annually.
(Photo : Harry Gerwin/Getty Images)

A new study from the University of California, Irvine, revealed that the warming climate is causing the glaciers and ice caps in Queen Elizabeth Islands, Canada to melt nine times faster annually.

The study, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, showed that ice melt in Canada's Arctic glacier has increased by 900 percent from 2005 to 2015. On average, the surface melt of ice caps and glaciers is about three gigatons per year. However, the annual ice melt average of Canadian glaciers has increased to 30 gigatons annually in the past decade.

"In the past decade, as air temperatures have warmed, surface melt has increased dramatically," said Romain Millan, an Earth system science doctoral student at UC Irvine and lead author of the study, in a press release.

Read: Uh-Oh! There's a Gigantic Iceberg About to Break Off From the Antarctic

For the study, the researchers tallied the "balance" of total ice gain and ice loss each year using satellite data and a regionally climate model.

The researchers noted that the ice loss was caused equally by two factors. The first factor, which contributed to about 52 percent of the ice loss, is the calving icebergs from glacier fronts into the ocean. On the other hand, the melting on glacier surface exposed to account for 48 percent of the ice loss.

However, the rising atmospheric temperatures since 2005 have shifted the balance between the two contributing factors. Now, the ice loss from the exposed surface accounts for 90 percent of melting. The increased rate of melting in the Canadian Arctic glaciers can become a major contributor to a sea level change. At present, Canada holds 25 percent of the Arctic ice.

This research, funded by NASA, provides the first long-term analysis of ice flow to the ocean from 1991 to 2015. Millan was joined by UCI professor of Earth system science Eric Rignot and UCI assistant research scientist Jeremie Mouginot.

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