Factors Contributing to Recent Arctic Ice Shelf Losses

  • Luke Copland
  • Colleen Mortimer
  • Adrienne White
  • Miriam Richer McCallum
  • Derek Mueller
Part of the Springer Polar Sciences book series (SPPS)


A review of historical literature and remote sensing imagery indicates that the ice shelves of northern Ellesmere Island have undergone losses during the 1930s/1940s to 1960s, and particularly since the start of the twenty-first century. These losses have occurred due to a variety of different mechanisms, some of which have resulted in long-term reductions in ice shelf thickness and stability (e.g., warming air temperatures, warming ocean temperatures, negative surface and basal mass balance, reductions in glacier inputs), while others have been more important in defining the exact time at which a pre-weakened ice shelf has undergone calving (e.g., presence of open water at ice shelf terminus, loss of adjacent multiyear landfast sea ice, reductions in nearby epishelf lake and fiord ice cover). While no single mechanism can be isolated, it is clear that they have all contributed to the marked recent losses of Arctic ice shelves, and that the outlook for the future survival of these features is poor.


Ice shelf Calving Multiyear landfast sea ice Mass balance Climate warming Glaciers 



We thank the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Canada Foundation for Innovation, Ontario Research Fund, University of Ottawa, Polar Continental Shelf Program, ArcticNet, Northern Scientific Training Program, Canadian Space Agency, Alaska Satellite Facility and GLIMS project for support to complete this work. Twentieth Century Reanalysis V2 data kindly provided by the NOAA/OAR/ESRL PSD, Boulder, Colorado. RADARSAT is an official mark of the Canadian Space Agency. We thank the Nunavut Research Institute and communities of Resolute Bay and Grise Fiord for permission to undertake fieldwork on northern Ellesmere Island. We thank Dave Burgess and an anonymous reviewer for comments on the manuscript and Nicole Couture for coordinating the peer review process.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Luke Copland
    • 1
  • Colleen Mortimer
    • 2
  • Adrienne White
    • 1
  • Miriam Richer McCallum
    • 3
  • Derek Mueller
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Geography, Environment and GeomaticsUniversity of OttawaOttawaCanada
  2. 2.Department of Earth and Atmospheric SciencesUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  3. 3.Department of Geography and Environmental StudiesCarleton UniversityOttawaCanada

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