Arctic study reveals warmest summers for 44,000 years due to greenhouse gases

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  • Published: Jan 28, 2014
  • Author: Steve Down
  • Channels: Atomic / NMR Knowledge Base / Raman / UV/Vis Spectroscopy / Infrared Spectroscopy / Chemometrics & Informatics / X-ray Spectrometry / Proteomics / MRI Spectroscopy / Base Peak

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Anyone doubting the effects of manmade greenhouse gases should listen to Gifford Miller from the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He has no doubts that these gases are affecting the Arctic ice in an unprecedented way. Miller was lead reporter in a recent study on the ages of exposed mosses on Baffin Island in the Arctic which showed that the last century was warmer than any preceding century over the last 44,000 years, as reported in Geophysical Research Letters.

The research team gathered dead moss that was exposed as the ice on Baffin Island receded during the summer and estimated their ages by radiocarbon dating. The results from four different ice caps were consistent, revealing that the mosses had not been exposed to the elements for about 44,000 years. This could only happen when the ice melted, so the recent cooling experienced over the last 5000 years has now been reversed.

"Although the Arctic has been warming since about 1900, the most significant warming in the Baffin Island region didn't really start until the 1970s," said Miller. "And it is really in the past 20 years that the warming signal from that region has been just stunning. All of Baffin Island is melting, and we expect all of the ice caps to eventually disappear, even if there is no additional warming."

Studies in Greenland by researchers from the same university had documented the rise in temperatures on the ice sheet, climbing 7°F since 1991 as a result of the accumulation of greenhouse gases. It is the scale of the warming that is damning. "This study really says the warming we are seeing is outside any kind of known natural variability, and it has to be due to increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere," said Miller.


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