Warm early Eocene Antarctica

By euphro via Wikimedia Commons Mount-Jackson-Antarctica
Figure 1. Mount Jackson, Antarctica, 3,184 metres, is located on the southern part of the Antarctic Peninsula and would have lacked snow and ice during the PETM.

Antarctica was once very warm


Within evolutionary/uniformitarian history, the early Eocene is considered to have been very warm. In fact, the Paleocene-Eocene boundary is considered a thermal maximum called the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM). A great deal of research has documented warmth in the global paleoflora and paleofauna record at this stratigraphic boundary.1,2,3,4 Numerous climate simulations have attempted to explain it, with little success.5

Proxy evidence for a very warm Arctic

Uniformitarian research has concluded that the high latitudes, those areas higher than 60°, had temperatures greater than 30°C in the early Eocene (according to their timeframe).6 In addition, little seasonal contrast was identified between winters and summers, resulting in an equable climate. Mean annual temperatures in the Arctic at the PETM were up to 25°C.7 Swamp cypress trees and lemurs were discovered in the north-east Canadian islands, both indicative of much warmer temperatures and greater precipitation.8,9,10 The Arctic Ocean is inferred to have been not only ice-free, but having temperatures of 18–24°C!11,12

With such a warm climate at mid and high latitudes of the northern hemisphere, the likely consequence is too much heat in the low latitudes. Climate simulations overwhelmingly confirm this. However, on investigation, uniformitarian scientists are ‘discovering’ that the low latitudes did not in fact overheat,13 making one wonder whether the ubiquitous circular reasoning14 is driving the ‘results’.

Antarctic had near-tropical warmth

It is easier to envision the Arctic being warm but not Antarctica because there is an ocean at the North Pole rather than a high-relief land mass. A warm Arctic Ocean would warm the surrounding high latitudes, but Antarctica should have been relatively cool because of its high latitude. High-latitude continents cool off considerably at night and in winter, especially with four to six months of total darkness. In addition, without the weight of today’s ice sheets applying isostatic downward pressure, Antarctica would presumably have been at higher altitude before glaciation, thereby enhancing the effects of cooling.

However, even Antarctica apparently did not escape the early Eocene warmth. A new report concludes that Antarctica was ‘near-tropical’,15 based on identification of near-tropical paleoflora including palms similar to those found in Australia, New Guinea, and New Caledonia. The fossil flora imply that winters would have to have been warmer than 10°C and frost-free! The paleoflora also indicated high moisture and precipitation. Replicating these conditions is extremely challenging for climatic simulations.5

Gratuitous global warming alarm

Many articles on early Cenozoic warmth, and even late Cenozoic pre-Ice Age warmth, include the obligatory global warming alarm. Here is how Pross et al. create alarm:

“Recently the early Eocene has received considerable interest because it may provide insight into the response of Earth’s climate and biosphere to the high atmospheric carbon dioxide levels that are expected in the near future as a consequence of unabated anthropogenic carbon emissions.”16

However, the data strongly indicate that anthropological warming is greatly exaggerated and that most of the slight warming the earth has experienced since 1880 is caused by natural processes, leaving man’s contribution small.17

Creation/Flood model implications

Can such warm-climate flora and fauna be explained within a Creation/Flood model? There are two likely possibilities.

The first is that if the pre-Flood world was uniformly warm, this would have allowed warm-climate animals and plants to live at high latitude. When the Flood came, they were simply buried close to where they lived.

Second, warm-climate flora and fauna could have been transported from low and middle latitudes to high latitudes by currents or by rafting on log mats. Given the powerful currents expected at times during the Flood, log mats could have been transported to polar latitudes in a matter of days. The second explanation is supported by the thick growth rings in many fossil trees found in high latitudes; had the trees grown where found, the axial tilt of the planet would have prevented sufficient sunlight for the development of such thick rings.18

High-latitude warm-climate vegetation also has consequences for the location of the Flood/post-Flood boundary. Could such warmth have occurred early in the post-Flood period, if the Eocene strata were deposited soon after the Flood? Advocates of this position must argue that these plants and animals lived at these same high latitudes after the Flood. Warm sea surface temperatures could produce modest warming on the high-latitude land masses but probably not nearly enough to produce near-tropical temperatures. Winter temperatures well below freezing would still persist over high-latitude land masses due to the low angle of the sun, no matter how warm the ocean temperatures. High and midlatitude warm-climate paleoflora and paleofauna provide strong evidence that the Flood/post-Flood boundary is above the Eocene strata.19

References and notes

  1. Clift, P. and Bice, K., Baked Alaska, Nature 419(6903):129–130, 2002 | doi:10.1038/419129a. Return to text.
  2. Hollis et al., Tropical sea temperatures in the high-latitude South Pacific during the Eocene, Geology 37(2):99–102, 2009 | doi: 10.1130/G25200A.1. Return to text.
  3. Heinemann, M., Jungclaus, J.H. and Marotzke, J., Warm Paleocene/Eocene climate as simulated in ECHAM5/MPI-OM, Climate of the Past 5(4):785–802 | doi:10.5194/cp-5-785-2009, 2009. Return to text.
  4. Huber, M., A hotter greenhouse?, Science 321(5887):353–354, 2008 | doi: 10.1126/science.1161170. Return to text.
  5. Oard, M.J., The Genesis Flood and Floating Log Mats: Solving Geological Riddles, Creation Book Publishers ebook, Powder Springs, GA, 2014. Return to text.
  6. Keating-Bitonti, C.R., Ivany, L.C., Affek, H.P., Douglas, P. and Samson, S.D., Warm, not superhot, temperatures in the early Eocene subtropics, Geology 39(8):771, 2011 | doi: 10.1130/G32054.1. Return to text.
  7. Weijers, J.W.H., Schouten, S., Sluijs, A., Bringhuis, H. and Sinninghe Damsté, J.S., Warm arctic continents during the Palaeocene-Eocene thermal maximum, Earth and Planetary Science Letters 261(1–2):230–238, 2007 | doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2007.06.033. Return to text.
  8. Christie, R.L. and McMillan N.J. (Eds), Tertiary Fossil Forests of the Geodetic Hills, Axel Heiberg Island, Arctic Archipelago, Geological Survey of Canada Bulletin 403, Ottawa, Canada, 1991. Return to text.
  9. Estes, R. and Hutchison, J.H., Eocene lower vertebrates from Ellesmere Island, Canadian Arctic Archipelago, Palaeogeogr. Palaeoclimatol. Palaeoecol. 30:225–247, 1980 | doi:10.1016/0031-0182(80)90064-4. Return to text.
  10. McKenna, M.C., Eocene paleolatitude, climate, and mammals of Ellesmere Island, Palaeogeogr. Palaeoclimatol. Palaeoecol. 30:349–362, 1980 | doi:10.1016/0031-0182(80)90065-6. Return to text.
  11. Sluijs, A. et al., Subtropical Arctic Ocean temperatures during the Palaeocene/Eocene thermal maximum, Nature 441(7093):610–613, 2006 | doi:10.1038/nature04668. Return to text.
  12. Moran K. et al., The Cenozoic palaeoenvironment of the Arctic Ocean, Nature 441(7093):601–605, 2006 | doi:10.1038/nature04800. Return to text.
  13. Keating-Bitonti et al., Ref. 6, pp. 771–774. Return to text.
  14. Oard, M.J., The reinforcement syndrome ubiquitous in the earth sciences, J. Creation 27(3):13–16, 2013; creation.com/reinforcement-syndrome. Return to text.
  15. Pross, J. et al., Persistent near-tropical warmth on the Antarctic continent during the early Eocene epoch, Nature 488(7409):73–77, 2012 | doi:10.1038/nature11300. Return to text.
  16. Pross et al., Ref. 15, p. 73. Return to text.
  17. Oard, M.J., The Great Global Warming Debate: The Facts, the Fiction and the Furore, Creation Ministries International DVD, 43 minutes, 2011. Return to text.
  18. Francis, J.E., Growth rings in Cretaceous and Tertiary wood from Antarctica and their palaeoclimatic implications, Palaeontology 29(4):665–684, 1986. Return to text.
  19. Oard, M.J., A Late Cenozoic Flood/post-Flood boundary part V—climatic and other evidence, J. Creation 27(1):119–127; creation.com/flood-boundary-cenozoic. Return to text.

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Readers’ comments

louis G.
If the whole earth was warm at some time, how comes many animals seem to have features especially designed for very cold climates, e.g. the arctic fox?
Tas Walker
Adaptation as the animals migrated to different areas after the Flood. Thes adaptations can take place within a few generations.
William M.
It seems logical to me that pre-Flood fossilized fauna of any kind could possibly be found at any point on the globe after the Great Flood. There seems to me no reason to believe the fossilized fauna was indigenous to the region in which it is found today.
jan J.
There's Axel Heiberg island in Canada located at about 80° latitude which contains the remains of a whole wetland forest. The wood has not fossilized and can still be burnt. Some of the tree species are subtropical.
My point is this - if this forest has been transported up there, then only together with the island itself. I think given the sheer quantity of the flora and fauna, your second possibility is a weak one.
Phil K.
Good call on the gratuitous global warming alarm. Any study that supports global warming gets praise and rewards (grants) in today's culture. I have to ask alarmists, if man caused global warming through the burning of fossil fuels, tell me what caused temperatures to begin falling at the height of the Medieval Warming period in the 1300s until the late 1700's. Then what caused global temperatures to begin rising again a full century before the Industrial Revolution?

Now my question: couldn't all the continents have been joined prior to the flood (Pangea)? This could have placed Antarctica at lower latitudes in the Southern Hemisphere and facilitated plant growth. Couldn't the continents have broken apart as a result of the Great Flood? Consequently Antarctica's cold, desolate state would be a testimony to the curse of sin?
Tas Walker
There are articles that discuss your question on this site and they can be found with the search box at the top right hand side.

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