Scientists uncover that there used to be a rain forest at the south pole

Recent discoveries have led scientists to believe that a rain forest used to exist at the south pole. This recent evidence is leading scientists to believe the climate was warmer 90 million years ago than previously thought.

The discovery itself was made by an international team. The team was made up of people from Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany and the Imperial College London in the UK.

The discovery

The team had found forest soil within 900 km of the antarctic. Encountering this fossil while drilling sedimentary cores at the seabed near the Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers in West Antarctica.

The discoloring of the core caught the researcher’s attention. As such they quickly went to scan the sample under a CT scan.

The CT scan revealed a network of remarkably preserved fossil roots.

So much so, that individual cells could be made out in the fossil. The fossil also contained samples of pollen and remains of flowering plants.

The researchers then compared the fossils to their modern descendants and deducted the existence of a rain forest at the south pole, existing 90 million years ago.

The team after making this discovery had published their research at Nature.

What it means

This important discovery has lead to the remapping of the climate model of the world. As co-author Professor Tina van de Flierdt says:

“The preservation of this 90-million-year-old forest is exceptional, but even more surprising is the world it reveals. Even during months of darkness, swampy temperate rainforests were able to grow close to the South Pole, revealing an even warmer climate than we expected.” 

The Cretaceous period was the prime time of the dinosaurs. With temperatures reaching 35 degrees Celcius in tropical areas, it is considered one of the warmest climates ever. The sea level was also 170 m higher than anything today.

Moreover, carbon dioxide levels were at an all-time high too, reaching a modest 1000ppm (parts per million). Compared to this carbon dioxide levels today are 474ppm.

However, keeping this recent discovery in mind, the climate of that duration might have been warmer than previously thought.

If a rain forest was to exist during that time at the south pole, it would mean that climate conditions south have had to have been much warmer than previously estimated.

Even the lead author Dr. Johann Klages, from Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz, has said:

“Before our study, the general assumption was that the global carbon dioxide concentration in the Cretaceous was roughly 1000 ppm. But in our model-based experiments, it took concentration levels of 1120 to 1680 ppm to reach the average temperatures back then in the Antarctic.”

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