Antarctica was once a tropical paradiseAugust 2nd, 2012 - 8:07 pm ICT by IANS
London, Aug 2 (IANS) The chilly continent of Antarctica was once a tropical paradise where palm trees swayed on the green shores, a study has found.
Around 50 million years ago, temperatures in Antarctica soared above 20 degrees Celsius, the Daily Express reported.
To collect proof of the continent’s tropical heritage, scientists undertook an expedition and drilled a kilometre into the ocean floor to collect samples of fossilised pollen that have lain undisturbed for millions of years.
Between 48 and 55 million years ago, high levels of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere forced up temperatures.
James Bendle, from the University of Glasgow, said the samples were the first detailed evidence of what was happening on the Antarctic.
He said it was a strange contrast to discover the continent’s balmy past amidst “a backdrop of freezing temperatures, huge ocean swells, calving glaciers, snow-covered mountains and icebergs”.
“It’s amazing to imagine a time-traveller, arriving at the same coastline in the early Eocene, could paddle in pleasantly warm waters lapping at a lush forest,” Bendle said.
Pollen found in the sediment cores showed two past environments — one being a lowland, warm rainforest, dominated by tree-ferns, palms and trees, and the other an upland, mountain forest region with beech trees and conifers.
Pollen from both regions would have been washed, blown or transported by insects onto the shallow coastal shelf where it would have settled in the mud and have been preserved for 50 million years.
However, Bendle said the new knowledge of past “greenhouse” conditions will enhance guesses about the effects of increasing CO2 levels today.
It could provide a glimpse of what could be in store for the world in centuries to come if global warming continues unchecked.
The biggest threat lies in the fact that Antarctica today is covered with ice which could potentially raise global sea-levels by 60 metres if the continent once again reached Eocene temperatures, leading to “devastating effects all over the world”.
If temperatures in Antarctica ever became as warm again, sea levels could rise 60 metres, swamping major coastal cities such as New York, Sydney and Hong Kong, the study said.
- How hot was earth 50 million years ago? - Jul 06, 2011
- Global warming threat to tropical rainforests exaggerated - Nov 14, 2010
- Global warming 60m years ago improved Tropical forest diversity - Nov 12, 2010
- Antarctica was once a warm "greenhouse" world - Apr 30, 2010
- Global warming curbs won't prevent steep sea rise - Mar 21, 2012
- Global warming disrupts natural patterns of glaciation - Jan 09, 2012
- Diseased trees found to be new source of methane in air - Aug 09, 2012
- Warming climate damaging reefs, impacting fish - Jul 11, 2012
- Drop in CO2 triggered polar ice sheet formation - Dec 02, 2011
- Melting glaciers on Arctic islands play major role in rise of sea level - Apr 21, 2011
- Rising carbon dioxide emissions linked to spike in hay fever in Europe - Apr 09, 2011
- Warming Antarctic 'caused by rising Pacific temperatures' - Apr 11, 2011
- Global warming will push up sea level - Jun 25, 2012
- Antarctica to face more threats, warn researchers - Jul 15, 2012
- Climate changes will be rapid if warming continues - Dec 09, 2011
Tags: beech trees, bendle, co2 levels, coastal shelf, continent of antarctica, eocene, forest region, global sea levels, greenhouse conditions, greenhouse gas, lush forest, mountain forest, ocean swells, palm trees, sediment cores, snow covered mountains, time traveller, tree ferns, university of glasgow, warm waters