Penny Ice Cap


General Information:

The Penny Ice Cap is the southernmost major ice cap in the Canadian Arctic (Goto-Azuma et al., 2002). It lies Northwest of the Pangnirtung Pass in the Cumberland Peninsula. Near the Pagnirtung Pass the ice cap is made up of interlocking cirque glaciers and outlet glaciers, forming a highland ice field (Andrews, 2002). This ice cap is smaller in area than Barnes Ice Cap, but it is 0.8 km higher and has a more polar regime (Bell and Jacob, 1997). To the west, the relief decreases, and the ice cap covers most of the terrain. Large outlet glaciers descend from the ice cap to the north, east, andPenny Ice Cap south (Andrews, 2002). Approximately 40% (mass fraction) of the snow accumulated melts and then refreezes
annually (Goto-Azuma et al., 2002). There is a reatively high summer melt experienced on the Penny Ice Cap compared to other Glaciers found further North (Goto-Azuma et al., 2002).

In 1953 the firn line of the Penny Ice Cap was surprisingly high at an altitude of 1.5 km, however the equilibrium line was noted to be at approximately 1.4 km (Baird, 1955). At an altitude at 2.05 km the summer melting period only took place for a matter of hours (61) rather than days, producing ice layers in the firn of irregular thickness and frequency (Baird,1955). It was not possible to date annual layers (apart from the previous year’s), but it appears that the accumulation, which was reduced
by aeolian processed on the some, is about 46 centimeters of water (Baird, 1955). The temperature of the Penny Ice Cap at a depth of zero amplitude was -13ºC, which was on 2ºC colder than the Barnes Ice Cap that is located 1.2 km lower (Baird, 1955).


Figure 1: Landsat 2 MSS false-colour image taken 08/1979 (Andrew, 2002).


Ice Cap Margin Changes:

Two ice cores taken from the Penny Ice Cap have provided reasonably good proxies of the climate and environmental changes that have taken place on Baffin Island over the past two centuries (Goto-Azuma et al., 2002). Sea-salt concentrations began to increase in the mid nineteenth century and remained elevated throughout the 20th century (Goto-Azuma et al., 2002). This trend of sea-salt concentrations is similar to the percentage of ice lost to melting, which is a measure of the summer temperatures (Goto-Azuma et al., 2002). Warming since the little Ice Age has also resulted in reduced sea-ice extent and has led to the elevated sea-salt concentration seen on the Penny Ice Cap (Goto-Azuma et al., 2002).

Penny Ice Cap - Canadian Glacier Inventory Project
Figure 2: Valley Glaciers radiating from the Penny Ice Cap (Parks Canada, 2003).

Penny Ice Cap
Figure 3: The Penny Ice Cap is located in the Cumberland Peninsula and stretches into
Auquittuq National Park
(The Canadian Encyclopedia, 2006).

Using reconnaissance surveys and shallow cores extracted near its summit, Holdsworth (1984) approximated an average annual net accumulation of 0.43 m water equivalent in the period of 1940 to 1979 (Bell and Jacobs, 1997).

In the mid-1990s, Inuit in the region has observed retreat of many of the Ice Cap’s outlet glaciers (Bell and Jacobs, 1997).


Annual Percent Melt
Figure 4: Annual percent melts for the past 250 years obtained for 2 ice
cores taken from the Penny Ice Cap (Goto-Azuma et al., 2002).


Snow Accumulation vs. Temperature
Figure 5: Snow accumulation records (top) and temperature values (bottom)
recorded from May of 1994 to May of 1995 (Goto-Azuma et al., 2002).

The following image depicts shrinkage of an area on the Penny Ice cap. Glacial retreat is clearly demonstrated in this series of photographs ranging from 1954-2002.

Glacial retreat of the Penny Ice Cap
Figure 6: Progression of retreat of Penny Ice Cap from 1954 to 2002 (Parks Canada 2006).


Glaciated Peninsulas Include:



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