Researchers say that with temperatures rising in Canada's high Arctic, hundreds of glaciers are shrinking and many could soon vanish.
They used satellite imagery to study 1,773 glaciers on Ellesmere Island, the most northerly island in the Arctic Archipelago, and found that from 1999 to 2015, 1,353 shrank significantly, and a few disappeared completely. "What we found is a loss of three complete ice shelves," Adrienne White, a glaciologist at the University of Ottawa, told The Guardian. "In terms of glaciers that terminate on land, we've lost three small ice caps." From 1948 to 2016, the annual average temperature in northern Ellesmere Island increased by 6.48 degrees Fahrenheit, one of the fastest rates of anywhere on Earth.
White said none of the glaciers are showing any signs of growing, and when they "break away, all of a sudden there's nothing holding back these ecosystems that have been growing and developing for thousands of years. And they're gone before we even have the chance to study them." Catherine Garcia
The Sierra Nevada snowpack, which after melting provides California with about a third of its water and replenishes the state's reservoirs, is estimated to be at its lowest level in more than 500 years.
While conducting research on the connection between the snowpack and the drought that has ravaged the state for the past four years, scientists looked at tree ring studies and information from the 108 measuring stations throughout the Sierra Nevadas, the Los Angeles Times reports. They found that the April 1 snow water equivalent was just 5 percent of the average since monitoring started in the 1930s, and wrote about their research in the journal Nature Climate Change. "We were expecting that 2015 would be extreme, but not like this," said senior study author Valerie Trouet, a paleoclimatologist at the University of Arizona.
Although it's believed that a strong El Niño will bring rain to the West Coast, due to higher temperatures, it may not affect the snowpack. "What we know about snow and how it varies from year to year is that there are two important climatic factors that play a role," Trouet said. "One of them is the amount of precipitation that falls and the other is the temperature at the time that precipitation falls. With higher temperatures, your precipitation is going to fall as rain." Catherine Garcia