WASHINGTON (CBSDC) –The average summer temperature in the Arctic over the last century is the highest it’s been in 44,000 years and possibly the highest in 120,000 years, according to a new study.

“The key piece here is just how unprecedented the warming of Arctic Canada is,” Gifford Miller, a researcher at the University of Colorado, Boulder, said. “This study really says the warming we are seeing is outside any kind of known natural variability, and it has to be due to increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.” Greenhouse gas is defined as any gaseous compound in the atmosphere that absorbs radiation. This process causes the greenhouse effect, which leads to global warning.

Miller and his colleagues were able to tell the Arctic temperatures by looking at gas bubbles trapped in ice cores. The researchers were able to compare this data with clumps of moss taken from a melting ice cap on Canada’s Baffin Island. They were able to determine that plants have been trapped in the ice for at least 44,000 years. They were also able to conclude that temperatures have not been this hot in 120,000 years.

Miller said in a statement that the Arctic’s significant heating did not start until the 1970s and has gotten hotter over time. “And it is really in the past 20 years that the warming signal from that region has been just stunning,” he added. “All of Baffin Island is melting, and we expect all of the ice caps to eventually disappear, even if there is no additional warming.”

The study was published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.