Scientists Find Ancient Rainforest—in Antarctica

Continent was downright balmy 52M years ago
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 2, 2012 8:11 AM CDT
Scientists Find Ancient Rainforest—in Antarctica
This undated handout photo provided by the journal Science shows a view of ice surface looking towards Gamburtsev Mountains and Dome A in Antarctica.   (AP Photo/Robin E. Bell--Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, New York)

It turns out Antarctica wasn't always an inhospitable expanse of ice. Drilling in the seabed off Antarctica has dug up sediment cores that, scientists say, reveal that a "near-tropical" forest covered the continent about 52 million years ago, the AFP reports. "There wouldn't have been any ice, it would have been very warm," one scientist explained. "It's quite surprising, because obviously our image of Antarctica is that it's very cold and full of ice."

The scientist says those warmer conditions were likely the result of much higher carbon dioxide levels, pegging the CO2 then at up to "a couple thousand" parts per million. Today, CO2 is at about 395ppm, though scientists noted that some more extreme climate scientists expect to see ice disappear again on Antarctica "by the end of the century." (More Antarctica stories.)

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