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New discovery reveals Antarctica had a rainforest 52 million years ago

techfun89 (2587195) writes | about 2 years ago

Science 1

techfun89 writes "Scientists drilling into the seabed off Antarctica revealed that a rainforest grew in the icy continent 52 million years ago. Scientists warn that Antarctica could be ice-free again within decades. This new discovery is published in the journal Nature.

Kevin Welsh, an Australian scientist who was with the 2010 expedition, said that analysis of sediment cores containing fossil pollen showed it was "very warm" 52 million years ago, at 20 degrees Celsius (68 F). "There were forests existing on the land, there wouldn't have been any ice, it would have been very warm."

Higher levels of carbon dioxide are thought to be the major reason for ice-free conditions during the period. The CO2 estimates were between 990 to a couple of thousand parts per million.

The current CO2 level is 395 ppm and the most extreme predictions made by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) see Antarctica being ice free by the end of the century."

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something left out of TFS or TFA (or both) (1)

Tastecicles (1153671) | about 2 years ago | (#40862695)

...is that Antarctica wasn't in its present position 52 million years ago. Current thinking is that 450 million years ago Antarctica straddled the equator, with continental drift playing a significant role in its current position, and drifting also opened up first the gap between Antarctica and Australasia, then the Drake Passage between Antarctica and South America. This resulted in an unbroken circumpolar current that encircled Antarctica and basically isolated it and its weather systems from the rest of the planet. Up until that point, there were green forests as far as 85 degrees South, then when the current closed, the entire continent froze. As far as I can see, absent a major solar event such as a nova, Antarctica will remain frozen as long as that current remains unbroken.

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