Glacier mass balance of the Melville South Ice Cap

Regions: Inuvialuit Settlement Region

Tags: climate change, glaciology, water balance, snow water equivalence, glacier health

Principal Investigator: Burgess, David O (13)
Licence Number: 15790
Organization: Geological Survey of Canada
Licensed Year(s): 2022 2021 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009
Issued: Dec 08, 2015

Objective(s): To estimate the amount of water equivalent mass the Melville South Ice Cap loses (or gains) on an annual basis.

Project Description: The objectives of this study are: 1) estimate the amount of water equivalent mass the Melville South Ice Cap loses (or gains) on an annual basis, and 2) derive a long-term climate record from glacier measurements and weather station data in order to determine trends in climate change for this region of the Northwest Territories.

Mass balance is measured at each of the 21 poles across the ice cap as function of snow depth and density (winter balance), and pole height difference over 2 successive visits (net balance) over the course of 1 full year. Observations at each pole are augmented with hourly temperature and snow pack/ ice height measurements collected from the automatic weather stations. Mass balance data is extrapolated across the entire ice cap in order to quantify the net annual mass balance and volume change of the ice cap as a whole.

Shortly after each field season on the Melville South ice cap, the research team submit a summary of results including wildlife siting’s, climate, and glacier change measurements to the communities of Sachs Harbour and Ulukhaktok. This information gives the local communities background information pertaining to hunting and climate change that would otherwise not be available.

Results are communicated through annual summary reports submitted to the Hunters and Trappers Committees of Sachs Harbour and Ulukhaktok. The reports are submitted upon returning to Ottawa after the field season is complete. The research team plans to visit these communities to deliver a presentation and discuss the changes that the ice cap has experienced over the previous decades. Results of the glacier measurements can also be accessed over the web at:

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from April 1, 2016 to May 31, 2016.