Thursday, 2 August 2012

Could Antarctica regain its position as a subtropical paradise?

This could be how the Wilkes Land "Croisette" in the Antarctica will look in the future

The Antarctic continent had a rather pleasant climate about 50 million years ago, with palm trees growing in the near-tropical warmth. That is the main message of a new study published in the scientific journal Nature

We show that the climate in lowland settings along the Wilkes Land coast (at a palaeolatitude of about 70° south) supported the growth of highly diverse, near-tropical forests characterized by mesothermal to megathermal floral elements including palms and Bombacoideae. Notably, winters were extremely mild (warmer than 10°C) and essentially frost-free despite polar darkness

Could a little (most probably natural) global warming bring back those golden days of the Antarctica? That at least seems to be what the Chinese are rooting for. They have commissioned Finland´s Aker Arctic to design a new polar research icebreaker, which might come in handy for the first Antarctic land claims and palm tree plantings:  

The polar research icebreaker for China will be designed to accommodate a total of 90 persons and will have a length over all of about 120 meters, a maximum breadth of 22,3 m and draught of 8,5 m. The vessel will have the ability to break through 1,5 m of level ice at 2 to 3 knots speed, including multi-year ice. The vessel will be fitted with twin azimuthing propeller drives. Ice class will be PC3 and the vessel will have dual classification from China Classification Society (CCS) and Lloyds Register of Shipping (LR).

For marine biological and ecological programs the vessel will enable marine organism and ecological surveys and acts as a biological research platform. The vessel may be used also for the Antarctic station supplies logistic tasks undertaking some of M/V Xuelong’s mission especially in the heavy sea ice condition.

(image of the Croisette in Cannes by wikipedia)

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