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Sea ice frozen for shorter periods, researcher’s data shows

Sea ice in Cambridge Bay and Kugluktuk is lasting for shorter periods, according to research by a university students.

The period between freeze up and sea ice thaw has grown shorter over the past 17 years in Cambridge Bay and Kugluktuk, according to data compiled by a research student at the University of Victoria.
Pixabay photo

Geography masters student Becky Segal and undergraduate honours student Trilby Buck, who attend the University of Victoria, spent a week in Cambridge Bay and a week in Kugluktuk in May to reveal what their respective sea ice studies have shown.

Buck concentrated on the timing of freeze up and sea ice melt near the two communities since 2000, based on 20 square km per area. Her findings were that the period between freeze up and "pond onset" – when the meltwater floods the ice surface before it drains – in Kugluktuk has shortened by 9.8 days per decade.

"It's a lot. It's almost a day every year," Buck said of the changes in Kugluktuk. "It's a pretty big difference."

In Cambridge Bay, the period has shortened by 5.4 days per decade.

"We can say that rate of change is significant," Buck said of Cambridge Bay.

Residents in the communities seemed interested in the changes, and were eager to share their observations, she said.

Buck added that her work doesn't involve predictions on whether those trends will continue in the future.

Segal's studies focus on radar satellite imagery that indicates the surface condition of sea ice to aid in route planning. Insights from community members were invaluable, Segal said.

"There's a lot of people with absolutely fascinating and helpful information for us. It is a two-way exchange of information," she said.