Rapid wastage of the Hazen Plateau ice caps, northeastern Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, Canada
Abstract. Two pairs of small stagnant ice bodies on the Hazen Plateau of northeastern Ellesmere Island, the St. Patrick Bay ice caps and the Murray and Simmons ice caps, are rapidly shrinking, and the remnants of the St. Patrick Bay ice caps are likely to disappear entirely within the next 5 years. Vertical aerial photographs of these Little Ice Age relics taken during August of 1959 show that the larger of the St. Patrick Bay ice caps had an area of 7.48 km2 and the smaller one 2.93 km2; the Murray and Simmons ice caps covered 4.37 and 7.45 km2 respectively. Outlines determined from ASTER satellite data for July 2016 show that, compared to 1959, the larger and the smaller of the St. Patrick Bay ice caps had both been reduced to only 5 % of their former area, with the Murray and Simmons ice caps faring better at 39 and 25 %, likely reflecting their higher elevation. Consistent with findings from other glaciological studies in the Queen Elizabeth Islands, ASTER imagery in conjunction with past GPS surveys documents a strikingly rapid wastage of the St. Patrick Bay ice caps over the last 15 years. These two ice caps shrank noticeably even between 2014 and 2015, apparently in direct response to the especially warm summer of 2015 over northeastern Ellesmere Island. The well-documented recession patterns of the Hazen Plateau ice caps over the last 55+ years offer an opportunity to examine the processes of plant recolonization of polar landscapes.