Elevation and Mass Balance Changes in the Canadian Arctic Archipelgo, 2011-15
21st century global climate changes are most felt in the Arctic, placing the regions frozen features such as glaciers, sea ice, and permafrost in peril. In the Canadian Arctic, there are more than 12000 glaciers occupying an area of over >140 000 km2, and if melted have the potential to rise global sea level by ~104 mm. Recent studies indicate that these ice masses are rapidly changing, where between 2004/06 and 2007/09 mass loss rates tripled. Throughout the 21st century temperatures are projected to double in the Arctic when compared to the global background rate. Combined with positive feedbacks within the arctic system, glaciers are forecasted to double their rates of mass loss from early 21st century rates. The pace of changes, combined with quantity of ice, invariably has led the region to be single largest contributor of sea-level rise outside of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets.
Surface height change on glaciers is an important variable for understanding glacier change overall since changes in height are linked to both climate change, and ice motion. This study uses height change measurements from the CryoSat-2 Radar altimeter launched in late 2010 by the European Space Agency from 2011-2015 on Canadian arctic glaciers to quantify glacier changes. Elevation rates are converted to volume and mass changes by taking the product of elevation rate with ice cap area and density of the snow and ice. CryoSat-2 derived mass change values for ten major Canadian ice caps are compared with a glacier model for the same period. We show excellent agreement in the magnitudes, patterns and trends of mass change with this independent method, and show that pace at which glaciers have changed in the recent 2011-15 period, is largely like changes in the 2004-09 period. CryoSat-2 results show Canadian Arctic glaciers from 2011-15 lost 298 Gt, while the modelling record shows 328 Gt losses, equivalent to 0.82 mm and 0.89 mm sea level rise equivalent respectively.