The ephemeral beauty of the melting Arctic

Off the Canadian Arctic coast, an archipelago of islands is rapidly losing the sheets of ice that once blanketed them. A group of scientists today published a long-range study of what this means, and documented the changing landscape.

These images capture a place that hasn't existed before, nor will it in the future - it is a landscape in flux, between a world frozen in ice and a world gushing with melt. We have a gallery.

In Nature, the authors sum up the situation:

Repeat airborne laser altimetry surveys have been used to estimate that the glaciers of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago (CAA) lost 23 gigatonnes per year of ice between spring 1995 and spring 2000. This represents 0.063 mm per year of sea-level rise . . . Since 2000 the CAA has experienced some of the warmest summer temperatures on record, with four of the five warmest years since 1960 occurring after 2004. Between 2005 and 2009 all CAA glaciers with long-term monitoring programmes experienced their most negative five-year period ofsurface mass budget since measurements began in the early 1960s.

Essentially, we are witnessing just one aspect of the polar melts that are predicted to raise sea level by a meter over the next century.

Read the full article via Nature

See more gorgeous images on Alex Gardner's website.

The ephemeral beauty of the melting Arctic


Date: August, 2008
Credit: Alex Gardner
Description: Summer sea ice off the coast of Devon Island, Nunavut, Canada.

The ephemeral beauty of the melting Arctic


Date: May, 2007
Credit: Alex Gardner
Description: A small glacier exiting the Devon Island Ice Cap, Nunavut, Canada.

The ephemeral beauty of the melting Arctic


Date: August, 2008
Credit: Alex Gardner
Description: Areal view of the Sverdrup Glacier, a river of ice that flows from the interior of the Devon Island Ice Cap into the ocean. Nunavut, Canada. Flow stripes are clearly visible on the surface of the glacier.

The ephemeral beauty of the melting Arctic


Date: August, 2009
Credit: Angus Duncan
Description: Ice cave or englacial melt channel. This ice cave was formed by meltwater flowing within the glacier ice. Belcher Glacier, Devon Island, Nunavut, Canada.

The ephemeral beauty of the melting Arctic


Date: August, 2009
Credit: Angus Duncan
Description: Ice lake or supraglacial lake. Surface melt water can pond on the surface of the glacier forming large lakes that can drain catastrophically. Belcher Glacier, Devon Island, Nunavut, Canada.

The ephemeral beauty of the melting Arctic


Date: August, 2009
Credit: Angus Duncan
Description: Ice channel or supraglacial melt channel. This was formed by meltwater flowing along the surface of the glacier. Belcher Glacier, Devon Island, Nunavut, Canada.

The ephemeral beauty of the melting Arctic


Credit: True color image prepared by Alex Gardner, data downloaded
from http://glovis.usgs.gov
Description: Landsat 7 ETM+ satellite image of the south-east Devon Island Ice Cap, Devon Island, Nunavut, Canada. The darker ice is the result of accumulated impurities at the surface.

The ephemeral beauty of the melting Arctic


Credit: True color image prepared by Alex Gardner, data downloaded from http://glovis.usgs.gov
Description: Landsat 7 ETM+ satellite image of small ice caps on the southern coast of Ellesmere Island.