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Ice surface temperature, albedo, and surface elevation change of glaciers and ice caps of the Queen Elizabeth Islands, Nunavut, Canada, 1995-2015. Open Access


Other title
Canadian Arctic
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Mortimer, Colleen A
Supervisor and department
Dr. Martin Sharp
Examining committee member and department
Rivard, Benoit (EAS)
Abdalati, Waleed (University of Colorado)
Kavanaugh, Jeffrey (EAS)
St. Louis, Vincent (Biology)
Sharp, Martin (EAS)
Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences

Date accepted
Graduation date
2017-11:Fall 2017
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Inter-annual variability in glacier and ice cap surface mass balance in the Queen Elizabeth Islands (QEI), Arctic Canada, is driven primarily by variability in summer melt. Mean summer (June-August) QEI glacier surface temperatures (LSTs) and shortwave broadband black-sky surface albedo (BSA) are determined from NASA’s Moderate Resolution Spectroradiometer (MODIS) for the period 2000(01)-2015 and provide the first near-complete picture of LST and BSA change for all glacier covered surfaces in the QEI. Between 2000 and 2015, mean summer LSTs increased at an average rate of 0.06 ± 0.04 °C yr-1, for a total increase of nearly 1°C. Most of this surface warming occurred between 2007 and 2012 when mean summer near-surface (2 m) and upper-air (700 hPa) temperatures were 1.0-1.2°C higher than the 1948-2015 mean. Over a similar period (2001-2015), the mean summer BSA for glaciated surfaces south of 80°N decreased by 0.057. Overall the 15-year record of mean summer BSA is negatively correlated (r = -0.71, p<0.2) with the 15 year record of mean summer LST, although local clusters of positive correlations were observed at high elevations in eastern Ellesmere Island. The observed positive ice-albedo feedback accelerates rates of melt and mass loss, and repeat airborne laser altimetry measurements show widespread thinning (surface lowering) across glaciated surfaces in the QEI since 1995. Rates of thinning, averaged for 50 m elevation bins, were more than three times larger from 2005/06 to 2012/14 than during the previous two pentads. Comparisons of dh/dt with MODIS-derived mean summer LST and BSA measurements and surface longitudinal strain rates, computed from RADARSAT- and LANDSAT -derived surface velocities for the period 2000-2012/14, indicate that QEI surface elevation changes were driven primarily by changes in climate except along most fast-flowing outlet glaciers where ice dynamics appear to have been a dominant forcing on observed dh/dt.
This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for the purpose of private, scholarly or scientific research. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
Citation for previous publication
Mortimer, C. A., M. Sharp, and B. Wouters (2016), Glacier surface temperatures in the Canadian high arctic, 2000-2015, J. Glaciol., 62(235), 963-975, doi: 10.1017/jog.2016.80.

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