Picture of the Day: Is This What Antarctica Looked Like 15 Million Years Ago?

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A team of scientists led by Sarah J. Feakins of the University of Southern California has published research based on plant leaf-wax remnants in sediment core samples taken from beneath the Ross Ice Shelf that suggests a previously unknown lush past in Antarctica, at least in relative terms. Above, an artist's impression of what the coast of the continent may have looked like 15 to 20 million years ago, with substantial coastal vegetation, algae in meltwater ponds, shrub-like beech and low podocarp trees. One of the paper's co-authors, Jung-Eun Lee, explained, "When the planet heats up, the biggest changes are seen toward the poles. The southward movement of rain bands associated with a warmer climate in the high-latitude southern hemisphere made the margins of Antarctica less like a polar desert, and more like present-day Iceland."

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Image: NOAA/NASA.

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Rebecca J. Rosen is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where she oversees the Business Channel. She was previously an associate editor at The Wilson Quarterly.

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