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As ice retreats, frozen mosses emerge to tell climate change tale

Dating of plants suggests summer’s hotter now than it’s been in at least 45,000 years, if not longer

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7:00am, October 26, 2017
Refsnider on Baffin Island

ICE FREED  Geologist Kurt Refsnider, now at Prescott College in Arizona, collects mosses revealed by retreating ice on Canada’s Baffin Island. Radiocarbon dates for the mosses suggest the region has less ice cover now than it did 45,000 years ago.

SEATTLE — Some mosses in the eastern Canadian Arctic, long entombed in ice, are now emerging into the sunlight. And the radiocarbon ages of those plants suggest that summertime temperatures in the region are the warmest they’ve been in tens of thousands of years.

As the planet warms and the ice retreats on Canada’s Baffin Island, the change is revealing plants long buried beneath the ice. And in some locations, the emerging plants last saw the sun at least 45,000 years ago — and possibly as much as 115,000 years ago. Paleoclimatologist Gifford Miller of the University of Colorado Boulder reported the finding October 22 at the Geological Society of America’s annual meeting. “We were stunned,” Miller said.

Miller’s team has collected an impressive number of samples and their findings are very compelling, said geomorphologist Lee

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