Antarctica’s 34-Million-Years Earlier Frozen State

“When and how did Antarctica go into deep freeze state” – this is one ecological question that has long been wondering researchers and ecologists. However, finally, a team of international scientists from the McGill University has claimed to find out the perfect answer to this ‘when and how.’ According to the research paper research published in the journal ‘Nature Geoscience,’ Scientists might have finally deciphered how Antarctica was rapidly turned into a frozen world, before 34 million years. According to the scientists, two primary factors have contributed most the switching process of Antarctica into a thick sheet of ice, nearly 34 years ago.

According to some previously conducted studies, Antarctica once was extremely hotter than it is today. 40 million years ago, the average temperature of the region was between 30 and 51 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 1 and 10 degrees Celsius) and the southernmost continent used to host a large number of plants.  But over the years, the continent progressively went deep into a northern state, blanketed by a thick layer of ice. And this switching process of Antarctica from an incredibly warmer continent to a deep-frozen region was quite shocking and mysterious for the scientists.

To solve this mystery, researchers from McGill University took seismic data into account. In addition to this, the scientists also bored out pipes of residue up to more than 30 meters (100 feet) long in the northernmost Antarctic Peninsula region, during two cruises.

As mentioned in the study, the two crucial factors that caused the glaciations of the southernmost continent are the ‘intensification of the Drake Passage’ and the ‘excessive reduction of carbon dioxide (CO2)’ from the atmosphere. The Drake Passage – the region sandwiched between South America and Antarctica intensified, contributing to the alteration in the process how water distributed in the seas globally. This adaptation changed the route of the searing currents appearing from the tropics and diverted them towards the northern latitudes.

The other significant contribution to the glaciations of the freezing of Antarctica came from the excessive emission of greenhouse gas – carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, 37 million to 34 million years ago. Since the inception of the Cenozoic Era, nearly 66 million years ago, the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere have continually been dropping down. But the unexpected changes in the direction of warmer ocean current triggered more rainfall, which eventually raised the levels of CO2 and this results in the frozen state of Antarctica.