Scientists Say Arctic Once Was Tropical

This was kind of interesting.

Scientists Say Arctic Once Was Tropical

WASHINGTON May 31, 2006 (AP)— Scientists have found what might have been the ideal ancient vacation hotspot with a 74-degree Fahrenheit average temperature, alligator ancestors and palm trees. It’s smack in the middle of the Arctic.

First-of-its-kind core samples dug up from deep beneath the Arctic Ocean floor show that 55 million years ago an area near the North Pole was practically a subtropical paradise, three new studies show.

The scientists say their findings are a glimpse backward into a much warmer-than-thought polar region heated by run-amok greenhouse gases that came about naturally.

Skeptics of man-made causes of global warming have nothing to rejoice over, however. The researchers say their studies appearing in Thursday’s issue of Nature also offer a peak at just how bad conditions can get.

“It probably was (a tropical paradise) but the mosquitoes were probably the size of your head,” said Yale geology professor Mark Pagani, a study co-author.

And what a watery, swampy world it must have been.

“Imagine a world where there are dense sequoia trees and cypress trees like in Florida that ring the Arctic Ocean,” said Pagani, a member of the multinational Arctic Coring Expedition that conducted the research.

Millions of years ago the Earth experienced an extended period of natural global warming. But around 55 million years ago there was a sudden supercharged spike of carbon dioxide that accelerated the greenhouse effect.

Scientists already knew this “thermal event” happened but are not sure what caused it. Perhaps massive releases of methane from the ocean, the continent-sized burning of trees, lots of volcanic eruptions.

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