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Aspects of the Glaciology of Meighen Island, Northwest Territories, Canada

  • K. C. Arnold (a1)

Abstract

Meighen Island lies in the centre of the north coast of the Queen Elizabeth Islands and fronts on the Arctic Ocean. An ice cap of about 76 km.2 covers about one-tenth of the island. Its greatest thickness of 150 m. occurs under the summit, near the south end, which was 268 m. above sea-level in 1960. The northern half of the ice cap is less than 30 m. thick; and the total volume is of the order of 2,000 × 106 m.3.

Precipitation is low in the northern Queen Elizabeth Islands, and Meighen Island lies in an area where summer temperatures are lowest. In the winters of 1959–60, 1960–61 and 1961–62, the snow accumulation was 12.6, 18.2 and 14.1 cm. of water equivalent. Some snowfall remained on the higher part of the ice cap in the cold summer of 1961; but the ice cap diminished in volume in each year; by 36 × 106, 72 × 106, 22 × 106 and 91 × 106 m.3 in the 1959, 1960, 1961 and 1962 ablation seasons.

If the conditions of these four seasons were maintained the ice cap would disappear in about 100 yr. However, a radio-carbon dating of a saxifrage exposed by the retreat of the ice from a small nunatak near the northern edge gave a date of less than 100 yr., and it appears that the existence of the ice cap might be sensitively related to recent climatic change.

Careful surveys were made in 1959, 1960 and 1961 in an attempt to detect movement in the ice cap. Unequivocal evidence is not available from these surveys; but the stake network has been maintained and another survey has recently been completed.

Résumé

(T. du N.-O.) Située au centre de la côte nord des iles de la Reine-Elisabeth, l’île Meighen fait face à l’océan Arctiques. Elle est recouverte, sur environ un dizième de sa surface. d’une calotte glaciaire de quelque 76 kilomètres carrés. La glace atteint sa plus grande épaisseur (150 mètres) sous lc point culminant, près de l’extrémité sud, et dont l’altitude était de 268 mètres en 1860. Dans la moitié nord de la calotte, la glace a moins de 30 mètres d’épaisseur. La calotte contient à peu près 2000×106 mitres cubes de glace.

La précipitation est faible dans la partie nord des iles de la Reine-Elisabeth, et I'iîle Meighen se trouve dans une région où les températures d’été sont les plus basses. Au cours des hivers 1959–60, 1960–61 et 1961–62, la couche de neige accumulée équivalait à 12,6, 18,2 et 14,1 centimetres d’eau. Il en restait un peu sur la partie supérieure de la calotte durant l’été froid de 1961. Mais au cours des saisons d’ablation (évaporation et fusion de la glace) de 1959, 1960, 1961 et 1962, le volume de la calotte a diminué, successivement, de 36 × 106, de 72 × 106. de 22 × 106 et de 91 × 106 mètres cubes.

Si ce régime d’ablation se continuait. la calotte disparaîtrait en un siècle environ. Cependant, on a fait la radiodatation au carbanc 14 d’une saxifrage mise à nu après le retrail de la glace d’un petit nunatak proche de la bordure nord: on a constaté ainsi que la glace date de moins d’un siècle, el il semble que l’existence morne de la calotte puisse se rattacher sensiblement à une modification récente du climat.

Afin de déterminer le mouvement de la glace de la calotte, on a fait des relevés minutieux en 1 1959, 1960 et 1961. Les résultais ainsi obtenus ne sont pas tout it fait probants. mais on a maintenu le réseau de piquets et l’on a récemment achevé un autre relevé.

Zusammenfassung

Meighen Island liegt in der Mitte des Nordrandes der Königin-Elisabeth-Inselgruppe und stösst an das Nördliche Eismeer. Etwa Bin Zehntel der Insel ist von einer ungefähr 76 km2 grossen Eishaube bedeckt. Ihre grösste Dicke von 150 m hat sie unter dem Gipfel. nahe ihrem südlichen Ende, das im,Jahre 1960 268 m über dem Meeresspiegel lag. Die nördliche Hälfte der Eishaube ist kaum 30 m dlick; ihr gesamter Rauminhalt ist von der Grössenordnung 2000 × 106 m3.

Im nördlichen Teil der Konigin-Elisabeth-Inselgruppe ist die Nierlerschlagshi;be gering, und Meighen Island liegt in einem Gebiet., wo die Sommertemperaturen am niedrigsten sind. In den Wintern 1959–60, 1960–61 und 1961–62 betrug der Wasserwert der Schneeablagerung 12,6, 18,2 und 14,1 cm. In dem kühlen Sommer 1961 blieb auf dent höheren Teil der Eishaube der Schnee teilweise liegen; aber das Volumen, der Eishaube verringerte sick von Jahr zu Jahr, und zwar in rien Abschmelzzeiten 1959, 1960, 1961 und 1962 um 36 × 106, 72 × 106, 22 × 106 und 91 × 106 m3.

Wenn die Verhältnisse weiter die gleichen blieben tide in diesen vier Abschmelzzeiten, so würde die Eishaube in etwa 100 Jahren verschwinden. Die Radioka bnn-Altersbcstimmung einer teint Rückgang des Eises von einem kleinen Nunat lk ans Nordrande blossgelegten Saxifrages ergab jedoch weniger als 100 Jahre, und so scheint es, dass die Existenz der Eishaube mit jüngeren klimatischen Veriindcrungen aufs engste in Verbimhing steht.

In den Jahren 1959, 1960 und 1961 wurden sorgfältige Vermessungen durchgeführt, um eine etwaige Berwegung in der Eishaube festzustellen. Eindeutige Beweise blieben zunächst aus; aber die Vermessungspfähle wurden stehen gelassen und kürzlich land aufs neue cine Verniessung statt.

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References

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Arnold, K. C. MacKay, D. K. In press. Different methods of calculating mean daily temperatures. their effects on degree-day totals in the high Arctic, and their significance to glaciology. Geographical Bulletin (Ottawa), No. 21, p. 12329.
Dunbar, Moira Greenaway, K. R. 1956. Arctic Canada from the air. Ottawa, Canada. Defence Research Board.
Hornal, R. Unpublished. Detailed gravity surveys on Ellef Ringnes and Meighen Islands, Queen Elizabeth Islands, Northwest Territories, 1960. [B.Sc. thesis, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, 1961.]
MacKay, D. K. Arnold, K. C. Unpublished. Access to Meighen Island, N.W.T. [MS. completed, 1964.]
Savile, D. B. O. 1961. The botany of the northwestern Queen Elizabeth Islands. Canadian Journal of Botany. Vol. 39, No. 4, p. 90942.
Stebelsky, I. Unpublished. A microclimatological study in the Canadian Arctic. [B.A. thesis, University of Toronto, 1962.]
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Stefansson, V. 1939. The problem of Meighen Island. Privately printed for Mr. Joseph Robinson, New York.
Thorsteinsson, R. 1961. The history and geology of Meighen Island, Arctic archipelago. Canada. Geological Survey. Bulletin 75.

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