Mass balance of the Prince of Wales Icefield, Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, Canada

Douglas Mair, David Burgess, Martin Sharp, Julian A Dowdeswell, Toby Benham, Shawn Marshall, Fiona Cawkwell

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15 Citations (Scopus)


This paper estimates the mass balance of the Prince of Wales Icefield, Ellesmere Island, Canada, averaged over four decades, from measurements of surface mass balance (SMB) and iceberg calving. Shallow ice core net accumulation measurements and annual mass balance stake measurements are used in conjunction with a digital elevation model and knowledge of the location of the dominant moisture source for precipitation over the ice cap to interpolate and extrapolate spatial patterns of SMB across the Prince of Wales Icefield. The contribution of iceberg calving to the mass balance is calculated from estimates of (1) the annual volume of ice discharged at the major tidewater glacier termini and (2) the annual volume loss or gain due to terminus fluctuations. Two different approaches to determining the SMB conclude that the SMB of the ice field is approximately in balance (average equals -0.1 ± 0.4 km3 w.e. a-1, where w.e. means water equivalent) largely because of its proximity to the main year-round moisture source that is the Smith Sound portion of the North Open Water polynya. Iceberg calving is a highly significant component of mass loss (-1.9 ± 0.2 km3 w.e. a-1) and is sufficient to make the overall mass balance of the ice field averaged over the period 1963–2003 clearly negative (-2 ± 0.45 km3 w.e. a-1, equivalent to a mean-specific mass balance across the ice field of -0.1 m w.e. a-1). The Prince of Wales Icefield contributes ~0.005 mm a-1 to global eustatic sea level rise.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberF02011
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface
Issue numberF2
Early online date29 Apr 2009
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2009


  • Prince of Wales Icefield
  • mass balance
  • Arctic


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