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The Arctic's Tropical Past 54

140Mandak262Jamuna writes "The BBC reports on findings that the arctic/polar region was tropical some 55 Million years ago." From the article: "Although the data tells us how the world changed from one with green house conditions to one with ice house conditions millions of years ago, it may also help scientists to predict what will result from the present changes in climate. Appy Sluijs points out that the data reveals that some of the climate models used to detail the Arctic's history got things wrong, and as they are the same models that predict our future climate they may need adjusting. " The reader pointed out that this may have had as much to do with continental drift as it did climate change.
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The Arctic's Tropical Past

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  • I knew it! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Ligur ( 453963 ) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `nikaj.rugil'> on Thursday June 01, 2006 @01:56PM (#15446915)
    That's how that polarbear fits into Lost!
  • anyone?
  • They function based on the input they have. The more input they have the better they work. Just because the current models don't work with a piece of information totally new and unexpected doesn't mean that they are broken. It means that they need to be updated.

    Besides which when it comes to global warming, humans are either helping it along, or not. If we cut pollution and other environmental damages, then we could help slow or stop global warming if its the former. If its the latter, then we still get the benefits of a cleaner environment. So why not take the steps?

    • by Distinguished Hero ( 618385 ) on Thursday June 01, 2006 @02:06PM (#15447020) Homepage
      If its the latter, then we still get the benefits of a cleaner environment. So why not take the steps?
      CO2 (and other greenhouse gases) are not particularly toxic. If we're only concerned about pollution, we should probably focus on things which are a bit more toxic e.g. mercury in the water which enters the human body through tuna, etc. And remember, there is no such thing as a free lunch. If you do impose heavy restrictions on companies in the "developed world," they'll simply move whatever tiny amount of manufacturing is still left to China or any other country which is business friendly and does not limit CO2 production of companies.
      • by GregStevensLA ( 976873 ) * on Thursday June 01, 2006 @03:11PM (#15447663)
        "If you do impose heavy restrictions on companies in the 'developed world,' they'll simply move whatever tiny amount of manufacturing is still left to China or any other country which is business friendly and does not limit CO2 production of companies."

        I have a friend who has terrible motivation. Whenever he has a problem, it totally makes him freeze up... and it really hinders him in life. I tell him: "Well, why don't you try [solution X]?" To which he always responds, "Oh, if I do that, then all that will happen is [new speculated obstacle Y]."

        Sometimes I want to grab him and yell, "Maybe. Maybe not. But you could at least try!? Why talk yourself out of trying? If you try and fail, you're certainly no worse off than if you just sit around on your ass wishing the problem would disappear!!"

        .... and this is how I feel about many of the arguments against environmentalism. People poo-poo any specific action that is proposed, saying: "Oh, if you do that, then companies will just do this" or "If you do that, then you'll just see these other problems" or (my favorite) "If you do that, it might not make a difference." But why spend all this energy talking yourself OUT of even trying to solve a problem that needs (ultimately) to be solved, anyway?

        Sure, manufacturing companies might move oversees to China. But not all of them can afford to, and for some of them, they might calculate that the cost of moving overseas exceeds the cost of complying to environmental regulation. And in the end, more companies will still be more compliant, than if you just throw your hands up in the air and say "oh noes! nothing can be done-zo!"

        • nothing at all to do with environmentalism, (i believe global warming to be FACT) but...

          "If you try and fail, you're certainly no worse off than if you just sit around on your ass wishing the problem would disappear!!""

          This is true in theory. This is different though in practice because if you try and fail, then not only are you indecisive but a failure as well. Failing at things depresses most people, so the lesson, as homer simpson put it, is not to try.

          I dont really know if or how that applies to global
        • The problem is that doing something significant about global warming involves very strict controls which will cripple the economies of developing nations. It's not "do this or nothing", it's "do this or do that".

           
        • Trying things has a nontrivial cost. Trying things in order to be busy is not a great idea.
        • If you try and fail, you're certainly no worse off than if you just sit around on your ass wishing the problem would disappear!!

          Well, this is wrong. If you try, you lose whatever effort you expend trying. If you fail, that's wasted. Therefore you shouldn't try unless you are reasonably sure the expedted outcome is better than the expended effort. If you're not sure, you should gather more information. Don't forget that any poorly understood "solution" might actually make the problem worse. There come
        • My answer to that specific objection is "well, then why should we allow Chinese companies to sell here?". That usually stymies them....
      • CO2 (and other greenhouse gases) are not particularly toxic

        That depends on how you define "toxic". Sure, folks in the US who have a temperate climate reasonably far above sea level with a food surplus may be more concerned about some heavy metal toxins in their high-protein diet, but if you are a subsistence farmer in Bangladesh whose very life is sensitive to the monsoon schedule and how far above sea level you are, you might have a different set of priorities.

        If you do impose heavy restrictions on c

    • If we cut pollution and other environmental damages, then we could help slow or stop global warming if its the former. If its the latter, then we still get the benefits of a cleaner environment. So why not take the steps?

      If it's the latter, then our pollutants might be what is stopping another little ice age. An ice age that will seriously hurt food production.

      Also, nothing is without cost. If we cut on CO2, we'll have to do something else to compensate. We could, for example, move closer and live in high r
    • Why is it... (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      ...that if anybody questions the Global Warming model, it's some kind of heresy, yet any kind of study, evidence or experimental result which could possibly be construed as contradicting at least some aspects of the Global Warming model is always instantly dismissed by GW fans as a mere...model?

      I don't know if GW is really occurring or whether humanity is contributing to it if it is happening, and I recognise the obvious fact that outfits such as Bush Inc will lie and cheat to deny at all costs that it's ha
      • I don't know if GW is really occurring or whether humanity is contributing to it if it is happening, and I recognise the obvious fact that outfits such as Bush Inc will lie and cheat to deny at all costs that it's happening, but I also note that GW-proponents are some of the least fucking tolerant of alternative possibilities.

        That it's occuring is not in any significant doubt, and the strong scientific consensus is that humanity is contributing to it.

        Are there alternative possibilities advocated by so

  • No! (Score:4, Funny)

    by bahwi ( 43111 ) <incoming@j o s e p h g u hlin.com> on Thursday June 01, 2006 @02:06PM (#15447021) Homepage
    Climate changes aren't caused by humans! So it's irrelevant to study them, whether they are happening or not! There's no proof humans are causing them! ARGH!!!!

    Sorry, had to condense anti-global warming people's stuff down to a few lines. =P
    • From TFA: Fifty-five million years ago the North Pole was an ice-free zone with tropical temperatures, according to research.

      Are you (though your trollish post) trying to insinuate that humans are responsible for converting the North Pole into an ice filled zone without tropical temperatures?
      • Are trying to set up a straw man and ignore that the global warming debate is inreference to the past couple millenia, no more? And that humans didn't even exist 55 mil years ago?

        I understand what you're implying -- if the climate could change without us then, surely it can change now without human input. But the fact of the matter is that we're contributing to some extent, which may or may not have dire consequences.
        • Re:No! (Score:3, Insightful)

          by MrFlibbs ( 945469 )
          The sad thing about all this is that both sides are pointing to the same data and claiming it proves their point:

          a) "This proves that global warming is a natural phenomenon! We're free to burn all the fossil fuels we want! We need change nothing!"

          b) "It's worse than we thought! This proves that runaway greenhouse gases will thoroughly devastate the planet! We have to take drastic steps at once!"

          TFA actually concludes by mentioning both points:

          "Today's warming of the Arctic can, in all likelihood, be att
          • Well, the best way to stop the human factor is to eliminate the humans. The second best would be to eliminate human-produced greenhouse gases, and allow 'natural' greenhouse gas production to return to it's normal state. Oh, and maybe sequester a bunch of the carbon we've mined/welled.

            The trick is to figure out how to do these things without destroying (or even temporarily devastating) human civilization.
          • by JC1X ( 622909 )

            a) "This proves that global warming is a natural phenomenon! We're free to burn all the fossil fuels we want! We need change nothing!"


            Asteroids plunging into the earth destroying all life as we know is a natural phenomenon! We're free to do anything we want! We need change nothing!



            ... for the less tuned in ...
            A natural phenomenon is not an excuse to do nothing when it impacts human life.

    • When your entire argument is a glorified "uhn uh, no way man" it's hard to make it any longer than two lines.
    • Climate changes aren't caused by humans! So it's irrelevant to study them, whether they are happening or not! There's no proof humans are causing them! ARGH!!!!

      Sorry, had to condense anti-global warming people's stuff down to a few lines. =P

      I'll go tell that to all the glaciers that melted in the last 20 years here in WA, OR, ID, MT, and BC.

      Oh, wait, they're gone - only 40 percent of these glaciers that have existed since wooly mammoths roamed here are left now.

      Now, if we were looking at such changes over
  • by uncleO ( 769165 )
    Continental drift occurs much too slowly to have the effects indicated by the core samples in this study. Over the last 55 million years, the arctic has been about where it is now.

    Also, it is ridiculous to suppose that the region moved towards and away from the pole to match the wild temperature fluctuations revealed in the data.

    Some of the other speculation I have read on this story is also suspect to me. Namely, trees ringing the Arctic Ocean. I find it difficult to believe that trees would flourish w

    • "I find it difficult to believe that trees would flourish with long periods of darkness annually."

      Why is that? Deciduous trees in temperate areas now thrive without photosynthesis for many months each year. I'd even speculate that extremely northern (or southern) origin of deciduous trees helps explain their seasonal metabolic extremes -- whereas coniferous trees probably evolved an a latitude with less seasonal variation (and less moisture).
      • Because sunlight affects other processes in the biosphere. It seems to me that months of darkness at 60 degrees F might promote mold and the like that would kill trees and other plants.

        The evidence you cite is for deciduous trees in sunlight and cold temperatures--a very different scenario.

        Then there are other factors to consider. Even in the Summer when there is light all day long, the light is generally sideways, not from above. The trees on the edge a forest would shade those on the inside all day lo

    • by spun ( 1352 ) <{moc.oohay} {ta} {yranoituloverevol}> on Thursday June 01, 2006 @02:41PM (#15447387) Journal
      From the wikipedia article on continental drift [wikipedia.org]: "South America and Africa are moving apart at an average of 5.7 cm per year, due to the seafloor spreading along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. This is comparable to the growth speed of a fingernail. The fastest recorded seafloor spreading takes place along the East Pacific Rise at 17.2 cm per year"

      Using the lower number gives us a distance of 2850 kilometers in 50 million years. Not quite far enough for major climate change just based on distance. However, this amount of drift could severely alter the Atlantic Conveyor [soton.ac.uk], a heat pump that moves tremendous amounts of heat from the equator to the poles. It is also enough distance to affect the amount of light available to trees.

      It should also be noted that using the higher figure would result in a movement of 8600 kilometers, nearly the distance from the equator to the poles.
    • The thing that puzzles me is this whole bit about reeds and trees. Where where they growing. Unlike Antratica, which is built on rock, the arctic is an ocean with no rocks above the water. Or so I have read. Hence the term artic ocean.

      So where were these trees growing?

      • The northernmost parts of Canada, Russia, and Alaska, as well as all of Greenland are considered to represent the Arctic Region of the Earth. The Geographical pole itself is just ice, but there is plenty of Arctic Tundra up there.
    • Continental drift occurs much too slowly to have the effects indicated by the core samples in this study. Over the last 55 million years, the arctic has been about where it is now.

      Probably very true, but: until about 55—40 million years ago Australia and Antarctica were joined together as the last piece of the supercontinent Gondwana (itself a piece of the former Pangea, which slowly broke up over the course of the Mesozoic). When Australia rifted off [wikipedia.org], the first Antarctic ice sheet started forming

    • when I first read this story today, I thought it evidence of a pole shift. That's the theory that the north pole shifts around every so often. The last time it shifted, the new artic flash-froze a bunch of wooly mammoths that used to be in a much warmer area.

      The Chandler_Wobble [wikipedia.org] is the name given to the unstable rotation on the axis.
  • So, that guy claiming Atlantis is in the North Sea may be right after all?
  • "Basically, it looks like the Earth released a gigantic fart of green house gases into the atmosphere..." But seriously, the Earth is "farting" all the time. And the oceans used to be able to filter it and make it smell more...um...pleasant.
  • by rmjohnso ( 891555 ) on Thursday June 01, 2006 @02:41PM (#15447378)
    FTA - "'Basically, it looks like the Earth released a gigantic fart of green house gases into the atmosphere - and globally the Earth warmed by about 5C (9F).'"

    I didn't know that fart was a scientific term. I'll have to include it in my next science assignment. :-)
    • Okay, so if a (Fart * Greenhouse = Earth * 5C), how many Volkswagons Of Exhaust equals the heat generated by a Burning Library Of Congress?

      Is it anything like a 747 Full Of Encyclopedias crashing into a Football Field per Second? (and if so, is it a European or American Football Field?)
  • The BBC finally figured out this Internet thing and found it to be a wonderful resource for news. information and education.

    Duh!, I could have told you the Arctic was once a tropical region. I live in Canada and in school we discussed and saw videos of how there are petrified remains of entire large tropical trees in the artic, proof that there once was a tropical environment up there. Continental drift IS the exlpanation for it being a tropical region, along with changes of the tilt of the Earth's axis o
  • There was an article on this in today's NY Times as well. What neither article really talked about was what this would mean for the rest of the world. Although some of the effect may have been specific to the arctic (the configuration of the continents, creating a fresh-water sea, etc.), it seems like if the arctic was that warm back then, then the rest of the planet would have had to be quite a bit hotter as well. So shouldn't their interpretation be testable if you look at the geological record in other p

Of course there's no reason for it, it's just our policy.

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