Volume and area changes of the Milne Ice Shelf, Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, Canada, since 1950


  • Mortimer, C.
  • Copland, L.
  • Mueller, D.R.




[1] Ground penetrating radar (GPR) surveys of the 205 km2Milne Ice Shelf conducted in 2008 and 2009 are compared with radio echo sounding (RES) data from 1981 to provide the first direct measurements of thinning for any northern Ellesmere Island ice shelf. Our results show an average thinning for the ice shelf as a whole of 8.1 ± 2.8 m, with a maximum of >30 m, over this 28-year period. Direct-line comparisons along a 7.5 km transect near the front of ice shelf indicate a mean thinning of 2.63 ± 2.47 m over the same period. Reductions in areal extent (29%, 82 ± 8.4 km2: 1950–2009) and volume (13%, 1.5 ± 0.73 km3 water equivalent (w.e.): 1981–2008/2009) indicate that the Milne Ice Shelf has been in a state of negative mass balance for at least the last 59 years. A comparison of mean annual specific mass balance measurements with the nearby Ward Hunt Ice Shelf (WHIS) suggests that basal melt is a key contributor to Milne Ice Shelf thinning. Glacier inflow to the ice shelf has also reduced markedly over the past 28 years. The transition of ice shelf ice to lake ice was the most important source of mass loss. A 28.5 km2 epishelf lake now exists on the landward side of the ice shelf. Given these recent changes, disintegration of the Milne Ice Shelf will almost certainly continue in the future.



Peer Review: 

Published in Peer Reviewed Journal

Faculty Name: 

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Department Name: 

Department of Geography and Environmental Studies

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