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From Greenhouse to Icehouse, From Forests to Frost: Antarctica’s Climate History

4 April, 2022 @ 7:30 pm 9:00 pm

Professor Dame Jane Francis DCMG FRS

Director, British Antarctic Survey.

Antarctica is a frozen white world of ice and snow in a remote region of our planet. Despite its remoteness, it has a profound impact on global climates and sea level that affect us all today.

About 100 million years ago, however, Antarctica was not white but green, even though the continent was situated over the South Pole. The climate was warmed naturally by carbon dioxide from volcanic eruptions, allowing dinosaurs to live in lush polar forests that spread from Patagonia, across Antarctica to Australia.

The plants in those forests can now be found as fossils in exposed rocks amid the ice sheets of Antarctica. The fossils of wood, leaves, pollen and even flowers show that the vegetation consisted of trees and shrubs that were the ancestors of the modern Southern Hemisphere vegetation.

Forty million years ago Antarctica turned from green to white as the greenhouse climate cooled, ice sheets formed across the South Pole and the continent became the icehouse that we see today.

Now scientists see evidence of warming climates and melting ice sheets in Antarctica. The fossil plants may thus provide us with a window into life at high latitudes in our future warm world.

Joint Lecture with the Geology Section Joint Lecture

53 New Walk
Leicester, LE1 7EA United Kingdom
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