A team of Yale scientists recently discovered that parts of ancient Antarctica and polar regions of the southern Pacific Ocean were once as warm as today’s California and Florida.
Hagit Affek, an associate professor of geology and geophysics, co-created a new way to measure past temperatures, and his findings were published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
According to Science Daily, the scientists “focused on Antarctica during the Eocene epoch, 40-50 million years ago, a period with high concentrations of atmospheric CO2 and consequently a greenhouse climate.”
Using concentrations of rare isotopes in ancient fossil shells, the researchers found that parts of Antarctica reached 63 degrees during the Eocene and saw an average temperature of 57 degrees — temperatures similar to the averages off the coast of California. Temperatures in parts of the southern Pacific Ocean measured 72 degrees, similar to seawater temperatures off Florida’s coast.
Affek said that, going forward, these new measurements can help improve climate models.