The fate of the Canadian Arctic Glaciers

Canada’s Arctic Glaciers, with an area of approximately 146,000 km2 (Lenaerts et al., 2013), are among the largest of the Arctic glaciers. They are far from any major populated area, but their possible contribution to sea level rise is not negligible. Vaughan et al. (2013) estimates the sea level equivalent of the glaciers in Arctic Canada as 103.6 mm.

Using a newly developed glacier model, an investigation was made to determine the evolution of the Canadian Arctic Glaciers from the current period until the end of the century. In the first step of this research, offline simulations for the period 2000-2100 were made using outputs from a CRCM5 transient climate change simulation, driven by the MPI ESM at the lateral boundaries for the Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) 4.5 over a domain covering the Canadian Arctic glaciers, with horizontal resolution of 0.25°.

This driving data shows an increase in winter precipitation for the Arctic glacier region and a decrease over the west Canadian glaciers. Despite the increase in winter precipitation for the Arctic glacier regions, the offline simulations suggest significant decreases in glacier fraction for the region, suggesting that the gain of mass from the increase in precipitation over the Arctic glaciers won’t offset the glacier mass loss due to the temperature increase. In some regions, the model suggests significant reduction (more than 50%) of the glacier fraction. The glaciers of Baffin island shows a greater reduction than the glaciers of Ellesmere Island, given the more southerly location.

Coupled CRCM5 simulations with dynamic glacier for the Arctic are currently underway and we will be reporting on these new results soon.

Figure: a) Glacier fractions at the beginning (2000) and b) at the end (2100) of the offline CLASS + glacier simulation. c) Projected changes to the glacier fraction for the year 2100 with respect to the year 2000.

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