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The Russian Arctic is losing billions of tonnes of ice

Glaciers and ice caps in the Russian Arctic are losing enough water to fill nearly five million Olympic-size swimming pools every year, according to researchers at the University of Edinburgh. 

The research team mapped data collected by the European Space Agency’s CryoSat-2 research satellite in order to monitor changes to the surface height and mass of ice caps and glaciers. 

They found that between the Novaya Zemlya and Severnaya Zemlya archipelagos, which cover a combined area of around 50,000 square miles, the glaciers and ice caps lost 11.4 billion tonnes of ice each year between 2010 and 2018.

This amount of ice lost would put an area the size of the Netherlands under seven feet of water. 

By comparing this with climate data from the same period, the researchers found there to be a clear link between rising temperatures and increased ice loss. 

landscape of mountain covered with snow

The researchers have warned that the ice melt has already had a major impact on the stability of some of the region’s glaciers and ice caps, which could further increase ice loss in the future.

The lead author of the study, Dr Paul Tepes, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences, said: ‘The Russian Arctic is largely inaccessible, but satellite data has enabled us to monitor changes to its ice caps and glaciers.

‘As has been observed elsewhere in the world, ice loss in the region is accelerating. As the climate continues to warm, significant ice loss in the Russian Arctic will have clear impacts for sea-level rise.’

In related news, methane emission events in Russia increased by 40% in 2020, despite the impacts of Covid-19 on energy demand, according to satellite data taken from the Copernicus Sentinel missions.

Antoine Rostand, president of Kayrros, said: ‘The climate footprint of these operational practices is enormous because of the global warming potential of methane – 84 times greater than carbon dioxide over 20 years.

Photo by Martin Adams

 

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