Arctic Summers are Now Hottest in 115,000 Years

Arctic Summers are Now Hottest in 115,000 Years

Arctic Summers are Now Hottest in 115,000 Years

According to new research, Arctic summers are so hot that everything seems to be melting in the entire region.

The Arctic is the northernmost polar region of the Earth which expands across a number of countries including Iceland, Canada, Sweden, Russia, Norway, and the United States of America. In addition to that, it consists of the Arctic Ocean and other adjacent seas. Despite being a unique area among the ecosystems of Earth, the Arctic region homes different kinds of living organisms ranging from humans to plants and from marine mammals to birds. The ice cover and snow of the region varies seasonally as ice melts in Arctic summers while snow reinforces the ice cover in winters. Having said that, a recent report published in the journal, Nature Communications, revealed that the temperatures observed in Arctic summers this year are the hottest in 115,000 years.

Glaciers are Melting Quick and Fast in the Arctic

The researching team collected some plants from the wilderness of Baffin Island which showed that this century is the warmest the region has faced for millennia. This has led to rapid melting of ice in the Canadian Arctic. Consequently, the landscapes that have not been ice-free for more than 40,000 years are starting to emerge. Although it is an extremely worrying sign with respect to Climate Change, it will allow the researchers to explore those parts of the world. Simon Pendleton, the Lead of the research who is a Ph.D. student at the University of Colorado, talked about the melting of glaciers in the Arctic in the following words:

“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. 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.”

Ancient Mosses and Lichens

The ice cover of the Arctic has preserved ancient mosses and lichens for thousands of years which will help scientists to explore the secrets of the past. Around 50 plants were sampled from the ice caps of Arctic.  Most of these plants were gathered from the ice caps of Baffin Island. Unlike glaciers, ice caps preserve the underlying matter on the ground until they start melting. As a result, researchers hope that they might be able to get some useful insights from these plants. In addition to mosses and lichens, the researching team also took some samples of rock in order to confirm the age and history of the ice coverage. Radiocarbon dating of the samples confirmed that these plants are tens of thousands of years old. Pendleton referred to that by saying,

You’d normally expect to see different plant ages in different topographical conditions. A high elevation location might hold on to its ice longer, for example. But the magnitude of warming is so high that everything is melting everywhere now.

Confirmation of the Hottest Arctic Summers

The researchers cross-referenced their findings with a number of sources including ice measurements from Greenland. The results showed that these regions were icebound for much longer than their initial estimates. This led them to a conclusion that the current Arctic summers are the hottest in the last 115,000 to 120,000 years. The report further suggested that the ice caps will continue to melt in the future due to which the Baffin Island will become ice-free in the next few centuries. On a positive note, it will expose more ancient lands which will improve our understanding of these parts of the globe. Pendleton mentioned that the change in the ecosystem of Baffin Island is clearly evident, even without radiocarbon dating. He said,

To see it and walk on the ice cap and understand we’re in a time that’s exposing landscapes that haven’t seen sunlight in possibly 120,000 years has a profound effect.”   

The National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA) made a recent assessment of the Arctic environment and found that the temperatures in the last 5 years have been higher than any other point since 1900. All these factors clearly indicate the rapid warming trends of the region and the impacts, like earlier plankton blooms and a huge decline in the population of reindeer, are reflecting that.  

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