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Wed Jan 9, 2013, 05:02 PM

We all know that parts of Antarctica used to be temperate...

(There are fossils there of plants and animals one would not expect to have ever lived so near the south pole.)

And we also all know that the continents have drifted around a lot. Not everything is located where it used to be.

So 1+1=2... it is natural to assume that Antarctica used to be closer to the equator when it had temperate areas.

But, oddly enough, when Antarctica had temperate zones it was pretty much where it is today.


The (surprising) explanation is that the different shape and location of the other continents, and the size and shape shape of the spaces between them, was such that the circulation of the oceans drove a lot of warm water from the equator down toward the south pole.

There is the question of how warm the Earth is overall, and then the question how that warmth is distributed. The warmth comes from the sun but it primarily distributed by the oceans.


I was reminded of this reading about the unusual cold weather (by UK standards) expected in the UK this week. On a map, the UK is pretty far north. In fact, the souternmost tip of the UK is north of the northernmost tip of the coninental US. But the gulf stream pumps Caribbean water up in their direction, which is why England is more temperate than her latitude would suggest.


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Reply We all know that parts of Antarctica used to be temperate... (Original post)
cthulu2016 Jan 2013 OP
virgogal Jan 2013 #1
Scootaloo Jan 2013 #2
cthulu2016 Jan 2013 #4
Scootaloo Jan 2013 #5
ananda Jan 2013 #3

Response to cthulu2016 (Original post)

Wed Jan 9, 2013, 05:08 PM

1. Gulf stream does a great job on Norway and the fjords also.

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Response to cthulu2016 (Original post)

Wed Jan 9, 2013, 05:41 PM

2. You're incorrect

Temperate forests did in fact exist on Antarctica... as recently as three million years ago. That's during the Pliocene. The continents were largely in their present position; the panama isthmus rose during the Pliocene, which made the north Atlantic colder, but Berengia also formed which would have kept arctic waters out of the Pacific, making it relatively warmer.

Antarctica would have had a climate rather like Siberia; the coastal areas are taiga and cold-temperate forests, alpine and tundra further in, probably a cold desert in the middle of the continent. It's reasonable to guess that mammals would have been few and far between; like Australia, most of Antarctica's mammalian fauna would have been marsupials, and they have issues with cold temperatures - but maybe not, maybe there were some polar-adapted marsupials from the Cretaceous forward (the Cretaceous being when Antarctica took the pole)

Forward two point five million years; the world is hit by the ice age cycle. Glaciers creep down Antarctica's mountains. And keep going, and going, and going until the whole continent is glaciated; This is helped by axial tilt, for half the year there is no sun in Antarctica worth mention. What sun there is, is reflected by the ice; this results in a glacial feedback loop that preserves Antarctica's ice cap even as the rest of the world thaws, re-freezes, thaws again...

Antarctica's current coldness isn't the result of ocean currents, it's the result of Antarctica freezing over very recently (geologically), and being unable to un-freeze.

By the way? Screw dinosaurs. I want a time machine to go see those arctic marsupials. or the polar terror-birds... that place must have been crazy... and with the glaciation, probably all fossil records are being ground to dust. Fucking depressing in its way.

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Response to Scootaloo (Reply #2)

Wed Jan 9, 2013, 05:43 PM

4. I'm going by Dawkins in The Ancestor's Tale

It's not my theory. Just something I read in a Richard Dawkins book.

I wasn't there.

So if it is incorrect then it is.

Thanks for the interesting post.

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Response to cthulu2016 (Reply #4)

Thu Jan 10, 2013, 12:12 AM

5. Reading that same book right now, myself. Neat!

Antarctica is a victim of the Ice Age. As for what caused the Ice Ages, well, now, that's a good question that probably has lots of good answers

I still want to see polar marsupials

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Response to cthulu2016 (Original post)

Wed Jan 9, 2013, 05:42 PM

3. The angle or tilt of the earth was different.

..

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