Yesterday I posted about a study suggesting 52 mya Antarctica had palm trees and other tropical and sub-tropical vegetation (see link below). Turning now to the other side there is also a study that concluded that the Arctic (North Pole) had palm trees and even crocodiles 52 mya!
It’s estimated that between 52-56 mya which is within the early Eocene period, palm trees grew as far north as Alaska and crocs swam in the Arctic. So taking an average we can say about 55 mya both the Arctic and Antarctica both had tropical and sub-tropical climates which is a far cry from the climates they have today!
Again, as in the study I posted about yesterday regarding Antarctica, core samples were also taken from the seabed of the Arctic Ocean floor and results of 3 studies were all published in the journal “Nature” in 2006.
In the Arctic at this time it’s believed the average temp was about 74 degrees Fahrenheit. Now like I said in yesterday’s post these researchers are assuming both Antarctica and the Arctic were in the same positions they are today 52 mya which I personally highly DOUBT!
The Eocene was a warming period in Earth’s geologic history. Between 52-57 mya the planet was mostly warm. Tropical conditions extended into the mid-latitudes near northern Spain and the Central USA. Even polar regions experienced this global warming! Further, the temp differences between the equator and poles was smaller than it is today.
In connection with this back in 2015 researchers discovered a Palm Tree forest in Norway at a site in Svalbard believed to be around 380 mya! So it appears that the polar regions have had tropical and sub-tropical climates more than once in our planet’s geologic history. Researchers found a tropical forest densely backed with 12 foot tall palms with flared trunks and curved branches of needle leaves. They believe this forest covered an area that was near the equator 380 mya meaning the polar regions were more near the Equator than they are today! Today Svalbard is in Arctic Norway.
The period between 416-358 mya is known as the “Devonian Period.” This is when the planet’s first large trees emerged. The end of this Devonian Period brought on a global cooling event (ice age). Svalbard is today a cluster of islands in the Arctic Ocean. Chris Berry of Cardiff University carried out some dating analysis of the fossil forest and determined it was 20 million years older than first thought.
When they explored some cliffs in the area researchers found many layers of fossilized trees one on top of the other. They believe Continental Drift eventually carried the forest northward. However, this fossil forest didn’t quiet look like the tropical forests we know today. These ancient trees were mostly lycopsids also known as “club mosses.” They produced leaves with a single vein and reproduced with spores. Today there about about 1200 species of lycopsids.
The trees in the fossilized forest are believed to have grown to around 13 ft tall and were tightly packed. Their trunks flared slightly at the bottoms. Some had diamond or oval shaped trunk patterns.
The Svalbard fossilized forest isn’t the only preserved forest still around! An even older fossilized forest can be found near Gilboa, New York in the USA!! In that forest giant palm-like trees grew in beds of thousands of roots and it had very few lycopids. In fact, the trees that mostly grew in the Gilboa area were not found in the Svalbard area. What that suggests is the forests growing at this time were not all the same in each location. The findings of these studies can be found in the journal “Geology” and “Nature” incidentally. The Gilboa forest also had giant vines. This discovery was first made back in the 1920s. Researchers believe this forest in the USA was full of millipedes and insects.
We’ve all heard how there are signs of tropical forests in the polar regions and that is now a FACT. There were long ago and long, long ago!! We often take our climate for granted today but it has not always been the same. Sometimes it has been much warmer and sometimes it has been much colder. What is today barren and maybe covered with snow and ice has not always been the case. What was once near the equator is today far from it and visa versa! Land masses were not as they appear today nor were they in the positions they are today. There were times when even the shapes of the continents we see today would have been unrecognizable by most people or didn’t even exist at all. We live in a very interesting place. A place of constant change in geological time. A place that can be pleasant yet a place that can also be harsh and cruel. This is our home….Earth.