Change in the Extent of Baffin Island’s Penny Ice Cap in Response to Regional Warming, 1969 – 2014

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Mary C Cox1, Heather M Cormier1 and Alex S Gardner2, (1)Clark University, Worcester, MA, United States, (2)NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, United States
Glaciers are retreating globally in response to warmer atmospheric temperatures, adding large volumes of melt water to the world’s oceans. The largest glacierized region and present-day contributor to sea level rise outside of the massive ice sheets is the Canadian Arctic. Recent work has shown that the glaciers of the southern Canadian Arctic (Baffin and Bylot Island) have experienced accelerated rates of ice loss in recent decades, but little is known regarding the spatial and temporal variations in rates of loss. For this study we examine in detail changes in the extent of the Penny Ice Cap (a proxy for ice loss) between 1969 and 2014 to better understand the climatic drivers of the recently observed accelerated rates of ice loss on Baffin Island. To do this, we reconstruct the extent of the ice cap for the year 1969 from historical maps and for the years 1985, 1995, 2010, and 2014 from Landsat 5 TM and Landsat 8 OLI imagery. We use 2009 SPOT HRS imagery and a novel extent comparison algorithm to assess the accuracy of glacier extents derived from Landsat imagery. Regional temperature and precipitation records were used to explain the spatial pattern of change. Due to large variation in elevations, hypsometry was also investigated as a contributor to differences in rates of change across the ice cap. Preliminary results show overall retreat throughout the ice cap but with regional differences in area and length change on either side of the Ice Cap divide.