According to the University of Colorado Boulder, glacial receding in the Canadian Arctic has uncovered landscapes that have not been seen without ice in over 40,000 years. The region may be experiencing the warmest century in over 115,000 years!
Researchers are using radiocarbon dating which determines the age of plants collected by the edges of the 30 ice caps on Baffin Island which is located west of Greenland. The island has experienced summertime temperatures in recent decades.
The Arctic Is Warming Fast
Recently, the Arctic has become warmer two to three times faster than the rest of the planet. Glaciers and ice caps are also reacting much faster according to Simon Pendleton, lead author and doctoral researcher at CU Boulder’s Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research.
Baffin is the fifth largest island which is ruled by deeply carved fjords that are separated by high elevation and low relief plateaus. The thin ice on a plateau acts like natural cold storage preserving ancient moss and lichens in their original growth stage for millennia.
What’s Keeping In Nature’s Freezer?
Researchers travel to retreating ice margins, take samples of newly exposed plants that have been preserved on these landscapes and carbon date the plants to get an idea when was the last time ice advanced over the area.
Pendleton said that dead plants are removed from the landscape and the radiocarbon age of rooted plants can define the last time summers in this region were actually warm in comparison to the past century.
Last August, researchers collected 48 plant samples from 30 different Baffin ice caps which range in elevations and exposures. They took samples of quarts from each site to further establish the age of the ice cover history of the landscape.
The conclusion, ancient plants from all 30 caps have been continuously covered in ice for at least the past 40,000 years.
Their finds seem to lean toward modern temperatures representing the warmest century for the region in 115,000 years. They also believe that Baffin could be totally ice-free in the next couple of centuries.
It is expected they will see different plants in different topographical conditions Pendleton believes a high elevation might hold ice longer. That said, the magnitude of warming is running so high that everything seems to be melting everywhere. Researchers have not seen anything like this before.