Glaciers melting in Canada reveal land that hasn’t been seen in over 40,000 years

Remote Island in the High Arctic Near Sunneshine Bay near Cape Dyer on Baffin Island in Nunavut, Canada

A new study published in Nature titled Rapidly receding Arctic Canada glaciers revealing landscapes continuously ice-covered for more than 40,000 years found that, well, I won’t insult your intelligence by re-typing the title.

The cause? You guess it:

Climate change.

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In the study, the authors wrote that temperatures in the Arctic are increasing faster than the rest of the world “due to strong positive feedbacks unique to polar regions,” but there are questions surrounding how alarming this is, as it’s not clear if this is unprecedented or not. 

But now that the ice caps are receding, leaving behind plants that have been entombed for thousands of years, we may be getting a better idea.

The authors found that:

Viewed in the context of temperature records from Greenland ice cores, our results suggest that summer warmth of the past century exceeds now any century in ~115,000 years.

The research team from University of Colorado at Boulder conducted their research at Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic. 

The team plans to use carbon dating to conduct further research on the island’s plant life, which they believe to be original growth on the island, possibly from over 40,000 years ago.

According to Business Insider:

In total, the team collected 48 plant samples from 30 ice caps on Baffin Island as well as quartz samples, which were used to help confirm the age and ice cover history of the environment. Analysis in the lab suggests that plants in all 30 ice caps were likely to have been preserved in a constant sheet of ice for the past 40,000 years — or longer.

The results were then compared to temperature data recovered from ice cores in Greenland and Baffin Island, which imply temperatures over the past 100 years have been the warmest in the region for 115,000 years.

One of the study’s authors, Gifford Miller, said “Unlike biology, which has spent the past 3 billion years developing schemes to avoid being impacted by climate change, glaciers have no strategy for survival. They’re well behaved, responding directly to summer temperature. If summers warm, they immediately recede; if summers cool, they advance. This makes them one of the most reliable proxies for changes in summer temperature.”

The gorgeous shot of Baffin Island in the cover image is via iStockphoto

Written by Dan Broadbent

Science Enthusiast. Atheist. Lover of cats.




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