Yale University scientists led a study of the Eocene era in Antarctica – about 40 million to around 50 million years ago.
Examining the carbon and oxygen levels in the fossil shells gathered from a small island off the Antarctic coast, the researchers estimated temperatures at that time to be an average of 57 degrees Fahrenheit. The water in the surrounding ocean averaged 72 degrees Fahrenheit, comparable to the coastal waters around Florida today.
“By measuring past temperatures in different parts of Antarctica, this study gives us a clearer perspective of just how warm Antarctica was when the Earth’s atmosphere contained much more CO2than it does today,” Peter M.J. Douglas, the study’s lead author, said.
The finding can help scientists improve their climate models used for predicting future world climate, they said.
“This provides strong evidence that global warming is especially pronounced close to the Earth’s poles.”