Field records, aerial photographs, and satellite imagery show that the perennial ice cover on Ward Hunt Lake at Canada's northern coast experienced rapid contraction and thinning after at least 50 years of relative stability. On all dates of sampling from 1953 to 2007, 3.5 to 4.3 m of perennial ice covered 65-85% of the lake surface in summer. The ice cover thinned from 2008 onward, and the lake became ice free in 2011, an event followed by 26 days of open water conditions in 2012. This rapid ice loss corresponded to a significant increase in melting degree days (MDD), from a mean (±SD) of 80.4 (±36.5) MDD (1996-2007) to 136.2 (±16.4) MDD (2008-2012). The shallow bathymetry combined with heat advection by warm inflows caused feedback effects that accelerated the ice decay. These observations show how changes across a critical threshold can result in the rapid disappearance of thick perennial ice.

Additional Metadata
Keywords High arctic, Ice cover, lake ice, Nunavut, Perennial ice, Polar lake
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1002/2014GL062960
Journal Geophysical Research Letters
Citation
Paquette, M. (Michel), Fortier, D. (Daniel), Mueller, D, Sarrazin, D. (Denis), & Vincent, W.F. (Warwick F.). (2015). Rapid disappearance of perennial ice on Canada's most northern lake. Geophysical Research Letters, 42(5), 1433–1440. doi:10.1002/2014GL062960