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No. 138: NOV-DEC 2001

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When The Antarctic Was Warm

The analyses of ocean-floor sediments deposited recently by melting Antarctic ice sheets reveal that these ice sheets are only about 2,000 years old. The evidence is in the rocky debris scraped up from inland Antarctica and then transported out to sea, where it drops to the sea floor as the ice melts. The grains of rock settle into the ocean sediments which contain biological debris that can be carbon-dated. (Marine life beneath the ice sheets is surprisingly abundant and varied despite the near-freezing temperatures.)

A somewhat politically incorrect observation appears in this article.

However, the news that the Antarctic Peninsula's ice shelves may have come and gone at least once since the end of the last ice age, about 11,000 years ago, suggests that people may not be fully to blame for the disappearance now underway.

Supporting foregoing evidence are studies of Antarctic lake sediments and ancient abandoned penguin rookeries. Everything points to a warmer, more humid Antarctica between 2,500 and 4,000 years ago.

(Perkins, S.; "Antarctic Sediments Muddy Climate Debate," Science News, 160: 150, 2001.)

Comment. The warmer Antarctic just portrayed might explain those old maps, such as that of Piri Re'is, that seem to depict a relatively ice-free Antartica. The more daring of us might postulate sea commerce between South America, southern Africa, and Australasia during those halcyon days!

From Science Frontiers #138, NOV-DEC 2001. � 2001 William R. Corliss

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