Can you imagine laying out on a warm beach… in the South Pole?
Well, if you had been alive about 40 to 50 million years ago, you could have! Two new studies, which both appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, show that Antarctica once had a much warmer climate than the freezing cold we know today.
While the average temperature of the continent was about 57 degrees Fahrenheit, the waters off the coast were as warm as 72 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s about the same temperature as the waters off the coast of Florida!
By examining fossil shells found from the Eocene epoch, scientists can measure the amounts of carbon -13 and oxygen -18 in the shells and determine the temperatures from that information.
In the second study, researchers were able to determine the age of radioactive krypton atoms taken from ice samples of the core of the Taylor Glacier, a large glacier in Antarctica. Researchers determined they were 120,000 years old. With this new sampling technique, scientists can date polar ice back much further than previous methods.
The weather is much colder down in Antarctica today – averaging negative 56 degrees Fahrenheit! As we all know, the South Pole is home to a few species of penguins. These types of penguins, the Emperor Penguin and the Adélie, have adapted to live in the Antarctic’s freezing environment.
To find out more about the differences between the North and South Poles, and the animals that inhabit them, check out our new book – Polar Bears and Penguins: A Compare and Contrast Book
Click here to learn more about the two studies on Antarctica: