Ice shelves in Canadian Arctic break up at record speed

Canadian researchers who have reviewed satellite imagery say ice shelves along Ellesmere Island in Canada's far north have lost almost half their area since just 2005. They say more open water and warmer weather are the contributing factors, the CBC reports.

The ice loss equals about 3 billion tonnes, or about 500 times the mass of the Great Pyramid of Giza.

"This is our coastline changing," says Derek Mueller, from Carleton University's department of geography and environmental studies. "These unique and massive geographical features that we consider to be a part of the map of Canada are disappearing and they won't come back." ...

The researchers say their disappearance suggests a possible return to conditions unseen in the Arctic for thousands of years.

Arctic ice shelves are old and relatively rare. They are much different from sea ice, which is typically only a few metres thick. Ice shelves can measure anywhere from 40 to 100 metres in thickness. They formed over thousands of years as a result of snow and sea ice build-up, along with glacier inflow in certain spots.

Read more, and see a video report, at CBC News.