Friday, December 17, 2010

Carbon Footprint

Imagine lush trees growing in the most distant northern regions of the Arctic. The extensive oil and gas discoveries in the past few decades are an indication that a vast biomass once existed there.

Now a research team studying a melting glacier near Canada's northernmost point of land has discovered a "mummified" forest that's at least two million years old, with "perfectly preserved" tree trunks, branches and leaves."

"The present-day thaw at the north end of Ellesmere Island -- another sign of the widespread warming now taking hold of Canada's polar frontier -- has served up intact spruce and birch trees believed to have been buried in a landslide during the Neogene period of Earth history between two million and eight million years ago."

Moreover researchers say, "Because the trees' organic material is preserved, we can get a high-resolution view of how quickly the climate changed and how the plants responded to that change."

The same scientists also say that the latest warming trend will only intensify global warming with all the pent-up carbon released from such sites.

Today, Ellesmere Island is mainly a home for muskoxen and is one of the world's most inhospitable places, but melting glaciers are changing all that.