Looking through the back of your freezer can reveal all sorts of goodies you likely have forgotten, but perhaps nothing is quite as surprising as the discovery made in the back of the fridge at the University of Copenhagen.
A 15-foot tube of ice and dirt from Greenland, recovered in 1966 by a US military team dug a mile into the ice, was analyzed for the first time in 2019 – and there was much more than just sand and dirt in the samples.
In a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences On Monday, the international team of researchers described the discovery of “perfectly preserved” branches and leaves trapped inside the extracted ice core. The presence of these plants indicates that there were plants in that spot now buried in ice, indicating that a decent portion of Greenland must have been free of ice for the past million years.
Scientist Andrew Crest reported that the samples are like a Greenland time capsule before the ice. He said, “Normally the ice sheets crush and destroy everything in their path, but what we discovered were delicate vegetation structures. They are fossils, but they look like they died yesterday.”
The implications of this finding could be enormous for studies of climate change, given that analyzing the Greenland ice sheet could help scientists predict how it will behave as temperatures rise and snowmelt as a result of human activity. It may also help them estimate how long it will take for the ice sheet before melting completely, affecting sea levels around the world.
In addition, the finding suggests that Greenland could be more vulnerable to human-induced climate change than we initially thought, given the evidence that most of the ice sheet has melted at least once in history – and that was without human assistance greenhouse gases and their emissions. .
Now that the levels are higher, the ice can melt faster and with more extreme results. The Greenland ice sheet contains enough water to raise global sea level by 20 feet, which would have dire consequences for coastal populations as it melts.
Chief scientist Paul Berman emphasized the need to address Greenland’s ice problem immediately. “This is not a 20 generation problem,” he said. This is an urgent problem for the next 50 years. “