In Brief

Ancient landscapes revealed as Arctic glaciers melt

New study suggests region may be experiencing its warmest century in 115,000 years

Rising temperatures in the Arctic has led to the exposure of ancient landscapes that have been hidden under glaciers for more than 40,000 years, researchers say.

According to a study outlined in a newly published paper in journal Nature Communications, scientists collected 48 plant samples that had been covered by ice for hundreds of centuries on Baffin Island, part of the Canadian territory of Nunavut.

The team, from the University of Colorado Boulder, “also collected quartz from these areas to help determine the age and history of ice coverage”, reports USA Today.

They then used radiocarbon dating to estimate “death dates” for the plants, measuring the amounts of naturally occurring isotopes that decayed at certain rates over time. Their findings showed the plants had all died at least 400 centuries ago - “right in the middle of the last glacial period”, study author Simon Pendleton, a doctoral researcher at the university’ Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, told Vice’s Motherboard.

When compared against temperature data reconstructed from Baffin and Greenland ice cores, the findings suggest that modern temperatures represent the warmest century for the region in 115,000 years, says ScienceDaily.

And “these trends are likely to continue and remove all ice from Baffin Island within the next few centuries, even in the absence of additional summer warming”, the scientists add in their report.

Earlier this month, a report from researchers at the University of California Irvine found ice in Antarctica is melting six times faster than it did 40 years ago. The melting has caused global sea levels to rise more than half an inch since 1979, the study found.

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