Subscribe to our newsletter

Melting ice in Canada reveals arctic landscapes previously hidden for 40,000 years


Melting icecaps in the Canadian Arctic has led to the unearthing of arctic landscapes that have been previously hidden for 40,000 years.

A group of researchers from University of Colorado Boulder have found that significant summertime warming in recent decades has resulted in Baffin Island, the area being studied, has endured its warmest temperatures over the past century that exceeds that of any century in the last 115,000 years.

The results are damning and, after conducting the study, researchers were able to examine 48 plant samples retrieved from the edges of 30 different ice caps all of which date back 40,000 years.

“The Arctic is currently warming two to three times faster than the rest of the globe, so naturally, glaciers and ice caps are going to react faster,” said Simon Pendleton, lead author and a doctoral researcher in CU Boulder’s Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research.

“We travel to the retreating ice margins, sample newly exposed plants preserved on these ancient landscapes and carbon date the plants to get a sense of when the ice last advanced over that location,” Pendleton added. “Because dead plants are efficiently removed from the landscape, the radiocarbon age of rooted plants define the last time summers were as warm, on average, as those of the past century.”

The plants the team sampled had been buried under glacial ice for more than 40,000 years. Pendleton added that they had been “almost certainly continuously buried” since the last glaciation which came in excess of 120,000 years ago.

Such is the rate of global warming, researchers are anticipating that Baffin Island could be completely ice-free within the next few centuries.