Canada’s last remaining intact ice shelf collapses

By | August 7, 2020

A glaciologist says it was only a matter of time before Canada’s last remaining intact ice shelf broke up.

The Canadian Ice Service posted satellite animation on Twitter last weekend showing the Milne Ice Shelf in Nunavut collapsing.

The calving event that started a week ago has reduced the shelf’s size by 43 per cent to 106 square kilometres.

Derek Mueller, an associate professor at Carleton University, says the split was inevitable but it still felt like losing a good friend.

Mueller has made several trips to study the ice on Ellesmere Island since 2004 and has observed its gradual deterioration.

He says that while the Milne Ice Shelf kept its area until a week ago, it had developed worsening cracks and rifts over the years.

The COVID-19 pandemic prevented Mueller and his colleagues from visiting the Arctic this summer. They placed research instruments there last July and were planning on collecting them.

“And so we’ve lost not only the equipment, which is now drifting away in the Arctic Ocean, but also the information that it recorded over the time that it was out,” Mueller said.

Also adrift is research into marine organisms, like sponges and sea anemones, discovered in water pockets within the ice.

“We’re not sure what these consequences are for these animals. And certainly they won’t be where we were studying them, because that piece has drifted away from the shore,” he said.

“If we find these kinds of animals again, I think it will be a stroke of luck.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on August 7, 2020

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