Forty million to 50 million years ago, parts of the Antarctic were much warmer than they are now. After analyzing ancient fossil shells, scientists found that temperatures on the South Pacific side of Antarctica reached 17°C with an average of about 14°C. Within the southern Pacific Ocean, climate was even hotter and hit 22°C—similar to Florida’s seawater now. The findings, described this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, offer researchers a clearer perspective of how hot the South Pole was when carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere were higher than they are today.
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