Emperor penguins are seen in Dumont d'Urville, Antarctica April 10, 2012. Counting emperor penguins in their icy Antarctic habitat was not easy until researchers used new technology to map the birds from space, and they received a pleasant penguin surprise for their efforts. Using satellite mapping with resolution high enough to distinguish ice shadows from penguin poo, an international team has carried out what they say is an unprecedented penguin census from the heavens over the past three years. Picture taken April 10, 2012. (Photo : REUTERS/Martin Passingham)
Palm Trees Used to Grow on Antarctica.
A group of international scientists made the discovery that the frozen continent was once a tropical paradise while drilling the edge of the continent. The results were published in the journal Nature.
The scientists utilized rock samples from drill cores on the seabed that were obtained off the coast of Wilkes Land, Antarctica. The samples were deemed to be between 53 and 46 million years old and contained fossil pollen and spores that are known to originate from the Antarctic coastal region. With this information, the scientists reconstructed local vegetation and infer the reality that tropical and subtropical rain-forests once covered the region.
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According to the findings, over 52 million years ago, an intense warming phase occurred which enabled tropical vegetation, to grow on the continent. The warm ocean currents and high carbon dioxide levels at the time helped boost temperatures. The scientists evaluated that the winter temperatures on the coast were warmer than 50 degrees Fahrenheit while summer temperatures were over 77 degrees Fahrenheit. When the warm ocean currents collapsed and the Antarctic coast came into contact with cooler ocean currents, the tropical haven vanished.
The discovery has prompted a few scientists to discuss global warming and its impact.
Dr. Ian Raine from the GSN science noted that the discovery is a major step in developing an understanding of man-made global warming. Dr. Richard Muller, who is well-known as a skeptic of global warming, also reversed his opinion after the finding.