90 Million years ago, our planet was much different than it is today, sometimes even beyond belief. Scientists recently published work that indicates Antarctica was a swampy rainforest before it became the frozen tundra we know so well.
According to the study, sediment buried 25 metres under the sea floor close to Pine Island Glacier was found. CT scans of sediment showed the first evidence of Cretaceous ecosystems this far to the south.
The scans revealed samples of forest soil, pollen, spores and root systems.
“It is definitely the southernmost Cretaceous evidence ever recovered on the planet. We were the first ones to ever drill there in that environment,” said lead author Johann Klages, a geologist at the Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholz Centre for Polar and Marine Research to Vice.
The researchers estimated that the soil is from about 90 million years ago. Scientists have long known that the weather was much warmer and the sea was much higher at that time, but there has been no evidence about what the climate and conditions were at the South Pole.
“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, swamp temperature rainforests were able to grow close to the South Pole, revealing an even warmer climate than we expect,” said Tina van de Flierdt, study co-author and professor in the Imperial College London’s Department of Earth Science and Engineering to CNN World.
They found that the average temperature at the time in Antarctica was about 11 degrees celcius. To put that into perspective, temperatures in the same region, today range from about -59 to -10 degrees celcius.
In addition, the researchers found that the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at the time was much higher than expected, which explains how Antarctica’s rainforest lived through the four-month polar night, which occurred even then.
After all of these exciting finds, however, CNN reports that the researchers are not sure why Antarctica has cooled off so much since then.
Here are some images of an artists impression of Antarctica as a swampy rainforest to get your imagination going: