New research from Yale University has determined that parts of Antarctica during the Eocene epoch (40-50 million years ago) were as warm as the current climate along the California coast.
The likely reason for this was high concentrations of atmospheric CO2 (greenhouse gas) during that period.
The scientific team, which was led by Peter M.J. Douglas and included paleontologists, geochemists and a climate physicist used a method of measuring concentrations of rare isotopes in ancient fossil shells to reach their conclusion.
California coast. Image courtesy of NOAA.
The scientists found that temperatures in parts of Antarctica reached as high as 17 degrees Celsius (63F) during the Eocene, with an average of 14 degrees Celsius (57F) — similar to the average annual temperature off the coast of California today, according to the Yale News report.
Key excerpt from the report......
"By measuring past temperatures in different parts of Antarctica, this study gives us a clearer perspective of just how warm Antarctica was when the Earth's atmosphere contained much more CO2 than it does today," said Douglas. "We now know that it was warm across the continent, but also that some parts were considerably warmer than others. This provides strong evidence that global warming is especially pronounced close to the Earth's poles. Warming in these regions has significant consequences for climate well beyond the high latitudes due to ocean circulation and melting of polar ice that leads to sea level rise."
This study was just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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