Hugh Bollinger
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Melting away

One glacier region found to contribute 10% of the world's melting ice was the subject of a recent report by University of Michigan researchers and colleagues from Norway and The Netherlands. It was published in Nature just before Earth Day. The title caught my attention. What the environmental researchers were observing in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago is now seen as the third largest source of water running into the oceans even though this region contains only a very small portion of the world's land ice. Lead researcher Alex Gardner says the archipelago is able to compete with the two primary sources of glacial melt water -- Greenland and Antarctica -- because only a few degrees of temperature change can have a great effect on melting across the entire archipelago of remote islands. [caption id="attachment_3787" align="aligncenter" width="1000" caption="Canadian Arctic Archipelago source: NASA"][/caption] NASA, using GRACE satellite imagery, began estimating ice losses in the Arctic islands in the 1990s. Gardner and his associates looked at more recent changes from the years 2004 to 2009. He found "the glaciers lost a volume equivalent to about 75 percent of Lake Erie, the majority of that loss happening between 2007 and 2009." This translates into a loss of ice mass four times what it had been in the 1990s, less than 20 years! The northern regions are possibly warming the fastest on Earth and are where the effect of climate change is already clearly visible. Some parts of Alaska have seen temperature increases of three degrees Fahrenheit since the mid-2oth Century, less than 50 years. If such trends continue, an entire region of islands will soon appear from under their current ice shroud. The effects elsewhere of all that volume of melt water is still to be determined. Stay tuned! WHB
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