Physiographic Controls on Landfast Ice Variability from 20 Years of Maximum Extents across the Northwest Canadian Arctic

Eleanor E. Wratten*, Sarah W. Cooley, Paul J. Mann, Dustin Whalen, Paul Fraser, Michael Lim

*Corresponding author for this work

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Landfast ice is a defining feature among Arctic coasts, providing a critical transport route for communities and exerting control over the exposure of Arctic coasts to marine erosion processes. Despite its significance, there remains a paucity of data on the spatial variability of landfast ice and limited understanding of the environmental processes’ controls since the beginning of the 21st cen-tury. We present a new high spatiotemporal record (2000–2019) across the Northwest Canadian Arctic, using MODIS Terra satellite imagery to determine maximum landfast ice extent (MLIE) at the start of each melt season. Average MLIE across the Northwest Canadian Arctic declined by 73% in a direct comparison between the first and last year of the study period, but this was highly vari-able across regional to community scales, ranging from 14% around North Banks Island to 81% in the Amundsen Gulf. The variability was largely a reflection of 5–8-year cycles between landfast ice rich and poor periods with no discernible trend in MLIE. Interannual variability over the 20-year record of MLIE extent was more constrained across open, relatively uniform, and shallower sloping coastlines such as West Banks Island, in contrast with a more varied pattern across the numerous bays, headlands, and straits enclosed within the deep Amundsen Gulf. Static physiographic con-trols (namely, topography and bathymetry) were found to influence MLIE change across regional sites, but no association was found with dynamic environmental controls (storm duration, mean air temperature, and freezing and thawing degree day occurrence). For example, despite an exponen-tial increase in storm duration from 2014 to 2019 (from 30 h to 140 h or a 350% increase) across the Mackenzie Delta, MLIE extents remained relatively consistent. Mean air temperatures and freezing and thawing degree day occurrences (over 1, 3, and 12-month periods) also reflected progressive northwards warming influences over the last two decades, but none showed a statistically signifi-cant relationship with MLIE interannual variability. These results indicate inferences of landfast ice variations commonly taken from wider sea ice trends may misrepresent more complex and variable sensitivity to process controls. The influences of different physiographic coastal settings need to be considered at process level scales to adequately account for community impacts and decision mak-ing or coastal erosion exposure.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2175
Number of pages19
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 30 Apr 2022


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