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Page last updated at 21:43 GMT, Friday, 1 August 2008 22:43 UK

Melting ice threatens Arctic park

Akshayuk Pass is used as a hiking trail in Auyuittuq Park

A national park in Canada's Arctic has been partly closed after record high temperatures caused flash flooding.

Hiking trails were washed away and 22 visitors had to be evacuated by helicopter from the Auyuittuq National Park on Baffin Island in Nunavut.

A combination of melting permafrost and erosion means part of the park will remain shut until geologists can examine the damage.

The park consists mainly of glaciers, rock and polar sea ice.

The Auyuittuq - which means The Land that Never Melts - covers an area of over 19,000sq km (7,340sq miles) and is dominated by the huge Penny Ice Cap.

It is popular with hikers, climbers and skiers.

Ancient trail

Pauline Scott, a spokeswoman for Parks Canada, told the BBC News website that after two weeks of record-breaking hot weather in June the ice had "melted at a phenomenal rate - we've never seen this kind of phenomenon in almost 40 years since the park was first opened".

Speaking from Iqaluit, the capital of the Canadian Arctic territory of Nunavut, Ms Scott said that due to the massive amount of melting ice "huge portions of what was formerly a 96km trail in the park have completely gone".

Map

Most visitors enter the park via the Akshayuk Pass, a traditional travel corridor used by the Inuit for thousands of years.

Now the pass has been closed as the glacier moraine that blocks Crater Lake from spilling into the pass is severely eroded, Ms Scott says, and threatens to create a flash flood.

The federal parks department has asked glaciologists and geologists for advice on whether it is safe to reopen the pass.

Ms Scott says the ground in the park is now very unstable and cracks are appearing along the trail.

She says it is thought that the melting ice is linked to climate change, as temperatures in parts of the Arctic have risen far faster than the global average in recent decades.


SEE ALSO
Canadian Arctic sheds ice chunk
30 Jul 08 |  Science/Nature
Arctic sets records on all fronts
16 Dec 07 |  Science/Nature
Arctic losing long-term ice cover
18 Mar 08 |  Science/Nature
Vast ice island trapped in Arctic
31 Aug 07 |  Science/Nature
Vast cracks in Arctic ice
23 May 08 |  Science/Nature
Arctic sea ice melt 'even faster'
18 Jun 08 |  Science/Nature

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