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Durham University

Department of Geography

Departmental Research Projects

Publication details

England, J.H. Lakeman, T.R. Lemmen, D.S. Bednarski, J.M. Stewart, T.G. & Evans, D.J.A. A millennial-scale record of Arctic Ocean sea ice variability and the demise of the Ellesmere Island ice shelves. Geophysical Research Letters. 2008;35:L19502.

Author(s) from Durham


Sea-ice ice shelves, at the apex of North America (>80N), constitute the oldest sea ice in the Northern Hemisphere. We document the establishment and subsequent stability of the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf, and multiyear landfast sea ice in adjacent
fiords, using 69 radiocarbon dates obtained on Holocene driftwood deposited prior to coastal blockage. These dates (47 of which are new) record a hiatus in driftwood deposition
beginning 5500 cal yr BP, marking the inception of widespread multiyear landfast sea ice across northern
Ellesmere Island. This chronology, together with historical observations of ice shelf breakup (1950 to present), provides the only millennial-scale record of Arctic Ocean sea ice
variability to which the past three decades of satellite surveillance can be compared. Removal of the remaining ice shelves would be unprecedented in the last 5500 years. This highlights the impact of ongoing 20th and 21st century climate warming that continues to break up the remaining ice shelves
and soon may cause historically ice-filled fiords nearby to open seasonally.

Department of Geography