According to experts, this is a clear indication that climate change is affecting the Arctic at a faster level.
The newest satellite images from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) showed that the ice caps of Canada’s St. Patrick Bay have completely disappeared.
Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center said that even though the eventual loss of the glaciers were anticipated, nobody expected it to happen as fast as it did.
The St. Patrick Bay ice caps, approximately 3 and 1.1 square miles in size, were on the Hazen Plateau of the northeastern Ellesmere Island in Nunavut. Both were believed to be at least 5,000 years old. Records say that they were significantly larger during the “Little Ice Age” – a period between the 16th and 19th centuries. But it seems the hot temperature in 2015 affected its life span.
“You could really see they got hit. But that heat has really just not stopped. It’s just getting too warm,” said Serreze.
Last year, the Okjökull glacier in Iceland became the first glacier that was lost to climate change. There are other glaciers, and they are all near the now-gone St. Patrick Bay ice caps. These remaining glaciers all sit higher but are still shrinking at a rate that Serreze predicts will last for just one more decade.
“There’s something called ‘Arctic amplification,” Serreze pointed out. This, according to him, refers to the observation that the Arctic is warming up much faster than any other place.
Ice caps are sensitive and are good indicators of the effects of climate change in the Arctic. The loss of the St. Patrick’s Bay ice caps is “an exclamation point of what’s happening in the Arctic,” he added.
Tom Neumann, chief of the Cryospheric Sciences Lab at NASA Goddard, also explained ‘Arctic amplification’ as the process by which “Arctic sea ice retreats and the reflective ice cover melts off and expose darker and warmer ocean water.” This results in a warmer atmosphere too, in what is essentially a feedback cycle.
Neumann also stresse that these losses should be a cause for concern because “even though this is a little glacier somewhere in Arctic Canada, collectively all of these glaciers contribute to sea level rise.”
This moment, Serreze said, “is forcing us to look at ourselves in the mirror.” “If the little story of my little ice caps helps to help to let us look in the mirror, then in that sense, it’s got a silver lining,” he added.
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