Berlin: Palm trees, usually found in hot climatic conditions, could grow in the Antarctic within a few hundred years if climate change continues, researchers said.
Scientists from the Goethe University and the Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre in Frankfurt have discovered evidence of similar plants 52 million years ago growing in drill cores obtained from the seafloor near Antarctica, a region that is especially important in climate research.
The findings, published in the journal Nature highlight the contrast between modern and past climatic conditions on Antarctica and the extent of global warmth during periods of elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.
"If the current CO2 emissions continue unabated due to the burning of fossil fuels, CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere, as they existed in the distant past, are likely to be achieved within a few hundred years," Prof Jorg Pross, a paleoclimatologist at the Goethe University said.
The scientists analyzed 53 and 46 million years old rock samples to reconstruct the local vegetation on Antarctica back then, and interpret the presence of tropical and subtropical rainforests covering the coastal region 52 million years ago.
The evaluations show that the winter temperatures on the Wilkes Land coast of Antarctica were warmer than 10 degrees Celsius at that time, despite three months of polar night.
Predicting rise in global temperatures in the coming decades, climate scientists believe that future climate warming will be particularly greater near the poles, suitable for this kind of vegetation.