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Antarctica drillers discover 52 million-year-old rainforest

By Nancy Houser     Aug 3, 2012 in Environment
When drilling under the Antarctic seabed, researchers discovered deposits from a 52 million-year-old rainforest. Scientists are warning Antarctica will soon be ice-free within decades.
The most extreme predictions by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are that the world would see ice receding on Antarctica "by the end of the century".
Teams of scientists are removing sediment from under deeply buried deposits of the Antarctic seabed. They discovered that Antarctica was ice-free and covered with forests from a warmer climate. According to the Stanford University News, their goal is to analyze sediments from cores that are 34 million years old. This period is a transition period when the warmer climate began producing the first polar ice caps.
Thailand's Bangkok Post reports the drilled cores revealed fossil pollens originating from "a near-tropical forest" during the Eocene period, 34-56 million years ago. Kevin Welsh, an Australian scientist who was part of the 2010 expedition, stated that when the molecules in the cores were examined, they showed a temperature of 68 F., considered warm for that period.
"There were forests existing on the land, there wouldn't have been any ice, it would have been very warm," Welsh told AFP of the study, published in the journal Nature. "It's quite surprising, because obviously our image of Antarctica is that it's very cold and full of ice."
Welsh went further to say that "there would also be major impacts to global temperatures were the ice to recede, because it is an integral cooling mechanism for the planet, regulating the temperature by reflecting the sun's energy into space."
Scientific American reports that ice loss from the massive ice sheets covering Greenland and Antarctica is accelerating, according to a new study. The rate at which ice sheets are losing mass is increasing at three times that of ice loss from mountain glaciers and ice caps.
More about Antarctica, Antarctica seabed, antarctica drillers, Rainforest, Rain forest
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