From Leafy to Lifeless: Tropical Rainforest Once Covered Antarctica

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The Asahi Shimbun Premium / Getty Images

General view of Sor Rondane Mountains are seen on January 14, 2010 in Antarctica.

If you’d visited Antarctica 50 million years ago, you could have lounged beneath swaying palm trees and enjoyed balmy 68-degree weather.

Yes, seriously. Drilling off Antarctica’s east coast has revealed fossil pollens that came from a “near-tropical” rainforest that once covered the icy continent, AFP reports. Analysts estimate that the lush forest thrived throughout the Eocene period, some 34-56 million years ago. The new findings corroborate the 2010 discovery of turtle bones — which also indicated that Antarctica was once home to a much warmer, lusher climate.

(PHOTOS: Life Beneath Antarctic Ice)

After studying samples taken from seabed sediment, climate scientists stopped cold when they realized Antarctica’s summer temperatures once reached nearly 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Kevin Welsh, an Australian paleoclimatologist present on the 2010 expedition, told AFP that higher levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere facilitated the warmer conditions. He said the ice is expected to recede again by the end of the century — though it’s difficult to predict, “because that’s really controlled by people’s and governments’ actions.” Still, the findings are alarming enough to cause several scientists to suffer total meltdowns, as CO2 levels are rising rapidly and are showing few signs of slowing down.

The layer of ice covering eastern Antarctica is somewhere around two miles thick, AFP reports. If the continent ever reaches Eocene-era temperatures, melted ice could raise sea levels enough to produce devastating effects worldwide.

MORE: The Value of Google Earth’s Antarctic Expedition

17 comments
stine201121
stine201121

Now that is what II call climate change Whoops where is Mans footprint since it appears that mother nature has little to do with climate change its all mans fault

fm.illuminatus
fm.illuminatus

"Still, the findings are alarming enough to cause several scientists to suffer total meltdowns, as CO2 levels are rising rapidly and are showing few signs of slowing down."


Sounds like nutjobs in a religions cult.  Except the show of concern is to convince all of us to fork out more money for their biased and nonsense research.  

They forgot to mention, before the Eocene, the antarctic was FROZEN and CO2 levels were HIGHER than they were in the Eocene.  But, don't let the facts stand in the way of stupid hysteria, right?

Adrian Johnson
Adrian Johnson

Wow !  This means there's LOTS of oil under Anarctica !!! Waiting to be extracted !!!  

What?  There's an international treaty  not to drill there ?  

O, what a relief to have that piece of paper,  plus  political will backed by the military to  enforce  it-- !  

TootsieLouie
TootsieLouie

The Creator is very capable of taking care of His creation...we don't have to worry whether it is getting hotter or colder...just live responsibly, and nature will take care of itself!

Jacques
Jacques

Stop brainwashing us with the anthropic CO2 induced global warming: That is a lie.

Everybody knows that the climate was much warmer than today in the Middle Age when the Greenland hosted Viking settlements and villages (later destroyed by the little ice age), and when the grapes harvesting in Burgundy was made usually BY THE END OF AUGUST (currently it is one month later at least).

In the Middle Age, the CO2 rate in the atmosphere was half the rate it is now, then who can explain that much warmer climate? NOBODY.

Carbonicus
Carbonicus

the statement by AUS paleoclimatologist Kevin Welsh, "He said the ice is expected to recede again by the end of the century — though it’s difficult to predict, “because that’s really controlled by people’s and governments’ actions" flies in the face of these findings.

 

These findings show that DESPITE anything we do, over millions of years climate changes - drastic ones - occur naturally and all the king's horses and all the king's men (carbon legislation and carbon emissions schemes - in the US use of that word) won' t make a difference to climate.

 

Time is a willing accomplice in all this.

 

Remember polar bear cover circa 2006 that said "Be Worried. Be Very Worried"? No statistically significant warming for 6 years before that or 6 years hence.

 

Katrina? "this is the sign of things to come".  what happened since? longest stretch of consecutive days in US history without a Cat 3 or higher hurricane hit US shores.

This was never about "climate" or "the planet". This has always been about other things.

Remember where reliance on "computer modeling" got you, folks, in the US mortgage/housing/bank/financial sector meltdown. How'd those computer models work out for Moody's, Samp;P, Fitch's, and the investors who relied on them.

You can rely on computer models. Or you can rely on empirical evidence.

This study is empirical evidence. And yet the "climatologists" and media wish to interpret this as indication this is where anthropogenic greenhouse gases (read: humans burning fossil fuels) are taking the planet?

How 'bout the interpretation of the data on its own:

Palm trees existed in a warmer climate on Antarctica BEFORE WE EVER HAD SUV's OR COAL FIRED POWER PLANTS.

Hmmm?

brbg
brbg

The poles used to be tropical and, ...surprise, the polar bears are still with us!

metronome2006
metronome2006

If life survived before, and the sea levels were higher then, all we have to do is move inland, but I know a scientist who says he doesn't believe global warming is entirely man-made- as evidenced by warmer periods in earth history. Some of it may be natural, Global warming is a political tool

Char Sheets
Char Sheets

It looks like we have finally found a way to reverse that pesky global cooling that has covered our poles with ice. Good job climatologists. 

funcuz
funcuz

@TootsieLouie 

 Oh , gee , great plan.

Maybe for your next trick you can find a way to keep penguins from over-heating when the temperatures hit 110. Or is "The Creator" going to send them all AC units ?

 If you want to live your life according to what some book of fairytales tells you , go right ahead. Tell us though , what else does your book have to say about global warming ? It's not too heavy on science or verifiable facts otherwise so maybe you can find the passage that mentions how we're going to feed everybody when the whole place is under water. 

Raimo Kangasniemi
Raimo Kangasniemi

 Polar bears are a very young species, less than a half a million years old.

The Eocene warming happened 55 million years ago.

Raimo Kangasniemi
Raimo Kangasniemi

We are building more and more on the coastal areas and concentrating human populations on these very vulnerable areas and are doing zilch to prepare our infrastructure and population centers on the rising sea levels. Instead of "moving inland" we are doing the opposite in many places and inland we are building more and more on areas that will increasingly suffer of droughts, like the US Southwest.

This time the warming is not natural, but caused by humans and even if it wouldn't be, we would still have to react to it. There's no escape from us from having to deal with the consequences of global warming, nor for our descendants who have to deal with it for perhaps thousands of years, thanks to our inaction.

Adrian Johnson
Adrian Johnson

Genetically, polar bears evolved from grizzly bears.