Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Ancient Rainforest Remains Found Under Antarctic Ice

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Antarctica has always been quite a curiosity in the world of science.  It has one of the harshest landscapes in the world, and it’s the coldest place on Earth.  Humans usually only go there for extensive research purposes and otherwise do not permanently live there.  But strangely, scientists recently discovered what looks like the remains of an ancient rain forest buried beneath the ice.

West Antarctica appears to have once been a thriving rain forest some 90 million years ago.  This would have been during the Cretaceous period, when a lot of things were quite different, and, probably obviously, dinosaurs were still roaming the land.  Temperatures were much warmer both in the air and in the water, which definitely helped this rain forest thrive.  This is a crucial detail, as Antarctica experiences four months of no nourishing sunlight every year; scientists seem to think the warmth in the air is what kept the plants going during this time, as well as the increased amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

The remnants were found in a sediment core underneath the layers of ice in the region.  This layer was a different color, so scientists immediately knew there was something different about it.  Once they were able to get a CT scan of the core, it revealed an ancient network of roots, pollens, and flowers all from that era in time.  Following that, a researcher by the name of Ulrich Salzmann in England was able to reconstruct what the forest might have been like.

The reconstruction led to many comparisons on what the rainforest was like in terms of looks and weather.  It is said that its lushness was similar to the forests of New Zealand today, it had the same average rainfall as what Wales would experience now, and its average yearly temperature was about the same as what Seattle’s is.

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