Climate Action

Arctic region experiencing its warmest century in over 115,000 years

Climate change is revealing Arctic landscapes that haven't been seen in over 40,000 years.

  • 29 January 2019
  • Rachel Cooper

Climate change is revealing Arctic landscapes that haven't been seen in over 40,000 years.

Arctic temperatures are increasing faster than the Northern Hemisphere average due to strong positive feedbacks unique to Polar Regions.

The research, published in the journal Nature Communications, used radiocarbon dating to determine the ages of plants collected at the edges of 30 ice caps on Baffin Island, west of Greenland.

Pre-Holocene radiocarbon dates on plants collected at the margins of 30 ice caps in Arctic Canada suggest those locations were continuously covered in ice for over 40,000 years, but are now ice free.

Simon Pendleton, lead author and a doctoral researcher in CU Boulder’s Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR), said: “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.”

The research has shown that Baffin could be completely ice-free within the next few centuries.

Pendleton added: “You’d normally expect to see different plant ages in different topographical conditions. A high elevation location might hold onto its ice longer, for example. But the magnitude of warming is so high that everything is melting everywhere now. We haven’t seen anything as pronounced as this before.”

This news follows a study which shows that there has been a significant decline in North American glaciers. Over the period of 2000-2018, glaciers in Western North America lost 117 Gigatonnes of water, this is enough water to submerge an area the size of Toronto by 10 metres each year.

Read the full report here.