Antarctica was once as warm as Florida, California

Some 40-50 million years ago, Antarctica would have featured temperatures in the low 60s.
By Brooks Hays  |  April 21, 2014 at 6:00 PM
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NEW HAVEN, Conn., April 21 (UPI) -- When most people think of Antarctica, they likely picture penguins, fur seals, lots of ice and dangerously low temperatures. But a new report by climatologists at Yale University details how parts of the South Pole once resembled the warm climates of coastal California and Florida.

Scientists measured the concentrations rare isotopes found in ancient Antarctic fossil shells to more accurately estimate the polar region's previous climactic conditions.

The analysis was published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The readings provide new insight to what it might have felt like to wander the South Pole during the Eocene epoch, 40-50 million years ago. During this period, featuring high levels of CO2 and a corresponding greenhouse climate, Antarctica would have regularly featured temperatures in the low 60s.

"Quantifying past temperatures helps us understand the sensitivity of the climate system to greenhouse gases, and especially the amplification of global warming in polar regions," {link:said co-author Hagit Affek of Yale: "" target="_blank"}, an associate professor of geology and geophysics.

By determining how global temperatures corresponded with varying degrees of CO2 concentrations in the past, scientists hope they can improve the accuracy of climate models prediction the future.

[Yale University]

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