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Study: Antarctica Was Once As Warm As California

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Fossil evidence shows the Antarctic coastline averaged 57 degrees some 40-50 million years ago. (Getty Images)

Fossil evidence shows the Antarctic coastline averaged 57 degrees some 40-50 million years ago. (Getty Images)

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PASADENA, Calif. (CBS Sacramento) – A stroll along the coast of Antarctica was once as pleasant as a walk on a California beach, reports Yale News.

Researchers at Yale University and the California Institute of Technology looked at temperature data from the time after the extinction of the dinosaurs: the Eocene Era, about 40-50 million years ago.

By measuring the amount of rare isotopes found in fossils, they found parts of Antarctica averaged 57 degrees, and could get as warm as 63 degrees. That’s similar to the average annual temperature off the coast of California today.

“We now know that it was warm across the continent, but also that some parts were considerably warmer than others, ” says lead author Peter M.J. Douglas, now pursuing postgraduate studies at CalTech.

It was a time when CO2 levels were highly concentrated in the atmosphere, creating a greenhouse effect for the planet.

The information can be used to create computer models to predict the effects of climate change.

“This provides strong evidence that global warming is especially pronounced close to the Earth’s poles,” says Douglas. “Warming in these regions has significant consequences for climate well beyond the high latitudes due to ocean circulation and melting of polar ice that leads to sea level rise.”

The study is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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