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Melting glaciers in Arctic reveal land hidden for 40,000 years, study says

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 1/29/2019 Brett Molina
a boat sitting on top of a mountain: This 2007 file photo shows an iceberg melting off Ammassalik Island in Eastern Greenland. A study done on Baffin Island, west of Greenland, found glacial melt uncovered land hidden in ice for more than 40,000 years. © Provided by USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Satellite Information Network, Inc. This 2007 file photo shows an iceberg melting off Ammassalik Island in Eastern Greenland. A study done on Baffin Island, west of Greenland, found glacial melt uncovered land hidden in ice for more than 40,000 years.

Melting glaciers in the Arctic have unearthed land that has been covered in ice for more than 40,000 years, a study says.

Researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder collected 48 plant samples from ice caps west of Greenland on Baffin Island, the world's fifth-largest island.

Researchers also collected quartz from these areas to help determine the age and history of ice coverage.

Using radiocarbon dating, which measures the amount of a radioactive isotope of carbon in an organism, researchers learned the plants were likely continuously covered in ice for at least 40,000 years.

The study, published Monday in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Communications, also found that, compared against temperature data for the region, modern temperatures represent the warmest century in 115,000 years.

You’d normally expect to see different plant ages in different topographical conditions," said lead author Simon Pendleton, a doctoral researcher in the University of Colorado Boulder's Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, in a statement.

"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." 

The study estimates Baffin Island could become free of ice within the next few centuries.

Earlier this month, a study from the University of California-Irvine found ice in Antarctica was melting six times faster than it did 40 years ago. The melting resulted in global sea levels rising more than half an inch since 1979, said the study.

Follow Brett Molina on Twitter: @brettmolina23.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Melting glaciers in Arctic reveal land hidden for 40,000 years, study says

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