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Variability and change in the Canadian cryosphere


  • C. Derksen


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


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. Copyright UKCrown: Environment Canada; © Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada 2012

Suggested Citation

  • C. Derksen & S. Smith & M. Sharp & L. Brown & S. Howell & L. Copland & D. Mueller & Y. Gauthier & C. Fletcher & A. Tivy & M. Bernier & J. Bourgeois & R. Brown & C. Burn & C. Duguay & P. Kushner & A. L, 2012. "Variability and change in the Canadian cryosphere," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 115(1), pages 59-88, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:climat:v:115:y:2012:i:1:p:59-88 DOI: 10.1007/s10584-012-0470-0

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    Cited by:

    1. Larissa Pizzolato & Stephen Howell & Chris Derksen & Jackie Dawson & Luke Copland, 2014. "Changing sea ice conditions and marine transportation activity in Canadian Arctic waters between 1990 and 2012," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 123(2), pages 161-173, March.
    2. Visbeck, Martin & Kronfeld-Goharani, Ulrike & Neumann, Barbara & Rickels, Wilfried & Schmidt, Jörn & van Doorn, Erik, 2013. "Establishing a sustainable development goal for oceans and coasts to face the challenges of our future ocean," Kiel Working Papers 1847, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW).
    3. Visbeck, Martin & Kronfeld-Goharani, Ulrike & Neumann, Barbara & Rickels, Wilfried & Schmidt, Jörn & van Doorn, Erik & Matz-Lück, Nele & Ott, Konrad & Quaas, Martin F., 2014. "Securing blue wealth: The need for a special sustainable development goal for the ocean and coasts," Marine Policy, Elsevier, vol. 48(C), pages 184-191.

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