September 12, 2009
Two recent papers have examined the changes in flow, mass balance and volume of the Devon Ice Cap(Shepherd et al., 2007) (Dowdeswell, 2004). The Devon Ice Cap on Devon Island in the Canadian Arctic ice cap’s area has an area of 14,000 km2, with a volume of 3980 km3 . The ice cap area decreased by 332 km2 (2.4%) between 1960 and 2000.
The mass balance of the glacier has been assessed since 1960, the total mass loss due to surface melting and runoff between has been about 59 km3. Between 1960 and 1999 about 21 km3 of ice was lost from the ice cap by calving of icebergs, contributing 0.21 ± 0.02 mm to global sea level over this time. The long term mean net surface mass balance was 0.13 m from 1960-2000. From 1998-2007 the mean annual balance has been -0.23 m year, a substantial increase. The Belcher Glacier above is the principal outlet glacier calving up to 30% of the total iceberg volume from the ice cap.
Devon Ice Cap’s negative balance has been due to warming and greater ablation, as the upper part of the glacier has seen some increase in accumulation, which has been more than offset by increased melting. In this case the mass balance record indicates a dramatic worsening after 1995. It will be interesting to see the ablation results from the summer of 2008, when record melting was noted both in northern Greenland and northern Ellesmere Island. The glacier is not alone in its behavior, the Prince of Wales Icefield has had a negative mass balance over the last forty years of -80 km3, equivalent to a mean-specific mass balance across the ice field of -0.1 m w.e. a-1, contributes 0.20 mm to global eustatic sea level rise (Mair et at., 2008).
Photographs of the fieldwork coordinated by the University of Alberta