Ice Shelf Extents 2017-07-21T14:46:29+00:00

Ellesmere ice shelf and ice tongue extents

The ice shelves, ice tongues and related ice types at the northern coast of Ellesmere Island have changed dramatically over the last 100 years or so.  One of the first documented visits to this coast in 1906, revealed a large, presumably continuous, ice shelf stretching nearly 500 km.  The first maps made of the region in the late 1950s showed that there were 15 ice shelves totaling about 2000 km2.  Attrition of these ice shelves continued including a well documented calving of the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf in the 1960s, the loss of the M’Clintock Ice Shelf, calving of the Serson (formerly known as the Alfred-Ernest) Ice Shelf and break-up of the Milne and Ayles ice shelves by scientists like Geoffery Hattersley-Smith and Martin Jeffries.  Martin Jeffries also documented some calving events in the 1980s.  Since 2002, there have been multiple calving and break-up events, including widespread fracturing of the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf in 2002, the loss of the Ayles Ice Shelf in 2005 and massive calving of multiple ice shelves in 2008 and 2011.  In 2015, there are only 4 ice shelves over 10 km2 in area and 9 smaller ice shelves, totaling 535 km2.

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For a more in depth explanation of how the ice shelves of Ellesmere Island reduced by 94% from 1906 to 2015, please consult Changes in Canadian Arctic Ice Shelf Extent Since 1906, in Arctic Ice Shelves and Ice Islands.  If you are interested in downloading the data generated by this project, you can find it here.  This project was made possible with imagery provided by the Alaska Satellite Facility, the Canadian Ice Service, Polardata Catalogue and the Canadian Space Agency.