Variability and change in the Canadian Cryosphere


  • Derksen, C.
  • Smith, S.L.
  • Sharp, M.
  • Brown, L.
  • Howell, S.
  • Copland, L.
  • Mueller, D.R.
  • Gauthier, Y.
  • Fletcher, C.
  • Tivy, A.
  • Bernier, M.
  • Bourgeois, J.
  • Brown, R.
  • Burn, C.R.
  • Duguay, C.
  • Kushner, P.
  • Langlois, A.
  • Lewkowicz, A.G.
  • Royer, A.
  • Walker, A.




During the International Polar Year (IPY), comprehensive observational research programs were undertaken to increase our understanding of the Canadian polar cryosphere response to a changing climate. Cryospheric components considered were snow, permafrost, sea ice, freshwater ice, glaciers and ice shelves. Enhancement of conventional observing systems and retrieval algorithms for satellite measurements facilitated development of a snapshot of current cryospheric conditions, providing a baseline against which future change can be assessed. Key findings include: 1. surface air temperatures across the Canadian Arctic exhibit a warming trend in all seasons over the past 40 years. A consistent pan-cryospheric response to these warming temperatures is evident through the analysis of multi-decadal datasets; 2. in recent years (including the IPY period) a higher rate of change was observed compared to previous decades including warming permafrost, reduction in snow cover extent and duration, reduction in summer sea ice extent, increased mass loss from glaciers, and thinning and break-up of the remaining Canadian ice shelves. These changes illustrate both a reduction in the spatial extent and mass of the cryosphere and an increase in the temporal persistence of melt related parameters. The observed changes in the cryosphere have important implications for human activity including the close ties of northerners to the land, access to northern regions for natural resource development, and the integrity of northern infrastructure.


Springer Verlag

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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