|Hidden tropics – Antarctica reviles ancient rainforest|
2012 Climate | Written by Magdalena Tomasik | Friday, 03 August 2012
Recent study, published this week in the Australian scientific review Nature, proved that Antarctica used to be covered by rainforest. The flora once flourished on the southern continent some 52 million years ago.
Scientists, studying sediment cores and conducting drilling operations of the seabed area off Antarctica discovered fossilized pollen that could only have come from a tropical forest that could cover the land masses in the Eocene period dated for 36 – 56 million years ago.
The study shows that Antarctica, today image of ice and very cold climate, millions years ago was very warm, with no glaciers or icebergs at all.
During this warm period, the carbon dioxide levels could reach up to couple of thousands part per million in Antarctic region. Today, those levels are estimated to be about 395 ppm on the continent.
Today, Antarctica is the southernmost, coldest, driest and windiest continent in the world with the temperatures reaching -90 °C. There is no permanent human habitation and only cold – adapted organisms can survive its harsh climate conditions.
The latest predictions say that with the global climate change, carbon dioxide levels last seen during the Eocene period could be reached again in only few hundred years. That means that palm trees could grow in Antarctica in not so far future.