The response of White Glacier to Arctic Warming over the past 55 years

White Glacier is a 14 km long alpine glacier located on Axel Heiberg Island in the northwest part of Nunavut. The glacier has a record of mass balance measurements spanning 55 years and these observations indicate that, on average, increased melt in recent years has not been offset by yearly snowfall - therefore leading to glacier retreat.  White Glacier has a rich history of glacier research dating back to 1959, and these early studies provide valuable baseline of information for us to observe how Arctic glaciers are responding to climate change.  Today, our research involves measuring changes to the glacier's shape and size since 1960 using air photo mapping methods and radar measurements of ice thickness. We are also monitoring ice motion throughout the year by using continuously running GPS stations installed on the glacier.  Axel Heiberg Island is uninhabited except for a few months of the year when researchers undertake field studies at the McGill Arctic Research Station in Expedition Fiord.  We carry out our fieldwork in the spring (April and May) when we can travel on the glacier by snowmobile, and again in July when the area is snow free and we are able to observe the effect of increased temperatures and melt on ice movement.

 

Study Site Locations

White Glacier (79.5° N, 90.9° W); nearest communities are Grise Fiord (350 km to the southeast) and the Eureka weather station (100 km to the west).

 

Collaborations

Trent University (Graham Cogley & Miles Ecclestone) McGill University (Wayne Pollard, Director of MARS)

 

Project Contacts

Laura Thomson

PhD Candidate, University of Ottawa

lthom021@uottawa.ca. Tel. 613-562-5800 x3913

 

Luke Copland

Associate Professor University of Ottawa

luke.copland@uottawa.ca, Tel. +1 613 562 5800 x2826