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Ancient Antarctica used to be a warm swampy forest

An international team of researchers took a sample of 90 million years old soil, which opened the veil of secrecy over the ancient Antarctica. It turns out that once there were cool humid tropics with thick vegetation, rivers and swamps. The average annual temperature was about 12°C.  In summer it rose to a pleasant 19 °C, and the amount of precipitation could be compared with northern Europe.



The researchers made this astonishing discovery by using computer tomography to study soil deposits 27-30 m below the ocean floor in the Amundsen Sea off the west coast of Antarctica. According to scientists, this layer in the height of the Cretaceous period was formed not in the ocean, but on land. The soil consisted of fine silt and clay, with ubiquitous inclusions of pollen and spores of plants, and the whole sample permeated a network of tree roots.

"The plant cells found here indicate that temperate rainforests such as those found, say, in southern New Zealand grew here 85-90 million years ago," says Ulrich Salzmann, co-author of the study. According to calculations, the entire Antarctic continent was supposed to be covered by vegetation and there was no ice cover.

To achieve these average temperatures at that time in Antarctica, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere had to be much higher than previously thought - not 1K:1000K, but 1.1K-1.6K:1000K particles.

Several new problems arise from all the conclusions of the study. First, scientists will now have to review the established climatic models of the Cretaceous Era. And secondly, it raises a key question - what happened on a planetary scale that turned a blooming continent into an icy desert.

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