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Barnes ice cap being pushed to no return.

The oldest ice in Canada is dwindling fast

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Daniel Martins
Digital Reporter

Wednesday, March 22, 2017, 5:07 PM - It's a last remnant of a gargantuan sheet of ice that once covered almost all of Canada tens of thousands of years ago. Now, thanks to a rapidly warming world, the oldest ice in Canada has an expiry date.

The Barnes Ice Cap in central Baffin Island is now about the size of P.E.I., but it was once part of the Laurentide Ice Sheet, which once stretched down to the present day U.S. northeast and midwest and covered the sites of Toronto and other future Canadian metropolises in hundreds of metres of ice.

As the last ice age waned, the sheet shrank, but the Barnes Ice Cap itself settled into a stable rhythm about 2,000 years ago. But despite being millennia old, scientists say a rapidly warming world means it will likely only last another 300 years if current emissions continue.

RELATED: Canadian glaciers play big role in global sea level rise

"This is the disappearance of a feature from the last glacial age, which would have probably survived without anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions," Simon Fraser University glaciologist Adrien Gilbert told CBS, referring to the technical term for man-made emissions.

Gilbert is one of the authors of a new paper, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, that determined global temperatures had reached a point where the cap is doomed. CBS says it had already begun to shrink beginning at the end of the 19th Century, just as the Industrial Revolution was ramping up.

As for how long the cap has left, the paper puts the range at 150 to 530 years, with the latter figure supposing a drastic fall in emissions. The authors' findings indicate the current level of warming is without precedent in in 2.5 million years.

Though the Barnes Ice Cap would not add too much to global sea level rise. Its decline would likely be parallel to loss of ice in much larger ice shelves in Greenland and Antarctica.

SOURCE: Geophysical Research Letters | CBS

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