A new study led by a University of Michigan researcher has shown that the melting glaciers and ice caps on Canadian Arctic islands are playing a much greater role in the rise of global sea levels than had previously been assumed.
The region in question, the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, measures in at roughly 550,000 square miles and contains some 30,000 islands, and during the period of 2004 to 2009 lost the equivalent of three-quarters of the water contained in Lake Erie.
“This is a region that we previously didn’t think was contributing much to sea level rise,” said Alex Gardner, a research fellow in the Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences who led the project. “Now we realize that outside of Antarctica and Greenland, it was the largest contributor for the years 2007 through 2009. This area is highly sensitive and if temperatures continue to increase, we will see much more melting.”
The Canadian Arctic Archipelago lost an average of 7 cubic miles of water per year during the first three years of the study. That number increased, some would say catastrophically, to 22 cubic miles of water per year during the last three years of the study: that’s roughly 24 trillion gallons of water lost per year.
Adding that all up, over the entire six years that the study ran, the Canadian Arctic Archipelago contributed a total of 1 millimetre to the overall height of the global ocean.
However, due to the small sample size of the study, only six years, the results don’t yet signify a trend; though they are disturbing. “This is a big response to a small change in climate,” Gardner said. “If the warming continues and we start to see similar responses in other glaciated regions, I would say it’s worrisome, but right now we just don’t know if it will continue.”
Source: University of Michigan