Sharply increased mass loss from glaciers and ice caps in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago

Alex S. Gardner, Geir Moholdt, Bert Wouters, Gabriel J. Wolken, David O. Burgess, Martin J. Sharp, J. Graham Cogley, Carsten Braun, Claude Labine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

229 Citations (Scopus)


Mountain glaciers and ice caps are contributing significantly to present rates of sea level rise and will continue to do so over the next century and beyond(1-5). The Canadian Arctic Archipelago, located off the northwestern shore of Greenland, contains one-third of the global volume of land ice outside the ice sheets(6), but its contribution to sea-level change remains largely unknown. Here we show that the Canadian Arctic Archipelago has recently lost 61 +/- 7 gigatonnes per year (Gt yr(-1)) of ice, contributing 0.17 +/- 0.02 mm yr(-1) to sea-level rise. Our estimates are of regional mass changes for the ice caps and glaciers of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago referring to the years 2004 to 2009 and are based on three independent approaches: surface mass-budget modelling plus an estimate of ice discharge (SMB+D), repeat satellite laser altimetry (ICESat) and repeat satellite gravimetry (GRACE). All three approaches show consistent and large mass-loss estimates. Between the periods 2004-2006 and 2007-2009, the rate of mass loss sharply increased from 31 +/- 8 Gt yr(-1) to 92 +/- 12 Gt yr(-1) in direct response to warmer summer temperatures, to which rates of ice loss are highly sensitive (64 +/- 14 Gt yr(-1) per 1 K increase). The duration of the study is too short to establish a long-term trend, but for 2007-2009, the increase in the rate of mass loss makes the Canadian Arctic Archipelago the single largest contributor to eustatic sea-level rise outside Greenland and Antarctica.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)357-360
Number of pages4
Issue number7347
Publication statusPublished - 19 May 2011


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