The paradox of warm-climate vegetation in Antarctica
Posted on homepage: 21 August 2009 (GMT+10)
The Northern Hemisphere Arctic lands are well known for their warm-climate fossil plants and animals from the Mesozoic and early Cenozoic of the uniformitarian geological column.1–4 (Although I believe the geological column is a general Flood sequence with many exceptions,5 I am using the orthodox scientific classification here for the sake of argument.) This situation commonly occurs at mid latitudes also.6
Sometimes logs are standing upright at these paleoflora sites or in nearby coal mines, even occurring at multiple levels, suggesting in situ growth to the uniformitarian scientist. Creationists describe such upright logs as polystrate fossils, and have reported features that are contrary to in situ growth.7 Such warm climate plants and animals, including dinosaurs (assuming dinosaurs inhabited a warm climate), also occur in Antarctica.
More Antarctica climate conundrums
A recent article shows that the Antarctica flora during the Permian and Triassic was from a warm climate and so adding new conundrums to the climate paradox.8 The geologists found upright logs interpreted to be in situ and one horizontal log 20 m long. Growth ring widths were 10 times those found in polar locations today. The rings contained mostly earlywood and only a small amount of latewood, suggesting a temperate climate with a rapid end to the growing season, considered to be caused by rapid reduction in light levels at such high latitude.
It has been known for a long time that fossil flora from the late Paleozoic to the Tertiary is from warmer climes than expected from the current latitude and even the presumed paleolatitude of Antarctica according to the plate tectonics paradigm. Such discoveries include no widespread winter freezing in the early Cretaceous,9 large tree rings that suggest a warm-temperate rain forest in the early Cretaceous to early Tertiary,10,11 supposed in situ, vertical trees with large rings and no frost rings in a warm polar Permian climate,12 dinosaur fossils in Antarctica3 and dwarf beech trees in the Transantarctic Mountains near 1,800 m elevation at 85°S latitude from the late Pliocene, indicating a cool climate but still much warmer than today.13
The new report adds to the paradox in that it compares the trees from the late Permian with those from the following middle Triassic. What they found was that the rings show similar structure, implying similar growing conditions, over the supposed tens of millions of years. These trees were even similar to trees from the early Permian from Victoria Land, Antarctica. This result was surprising because the paleoclimate during the two periods is considered to have been very different. For instance, Antarctica as well as other Southern Hemisphere continents were supposed to be in the grip of a huge ice age in the early Permian, the last of four major pre-Pleistocene ice ages.14
All this information on warm-climate high latitude paleofloras is supportive of the floating log-mat model during the Flood,15–17 since any landmass near the South Pole would have had a cold climate. The trees would have been rafted to Antarctica from lower latitudes, as I deduced for Northern Hemisphere paleofloras.18 The fact that the trees remained so similar for tens of millions of years suggests that these tens of millions of years do not exist. Rather, the thickness of the sediment represents the deposition of trees from the log mat during rapid sedimentation.
Furthermore, such warm-climate trees in the Early Permian reinforce the idea that there was no late Paleozoic ice age, and that the till-like deposits and their supposed glacial signatures are the result of gigantic submarine slides during the Flood.14
The vertical polystrate trees, which are found in many areas worldwide, including Antarctica, indicate that logs from the log mat sometimes sank vertically, just like those observed at Mount St Helens.19 Interestingly, Mount St Helens even caused the Antarctica geologists to question their deduction of in situ trees:
‘While identifying fossil trees in growth position would appear to be a relatively simple task, the aftermath of the 1982 Mount St Helens eruption (Cascade Range, USA) demonstrates that it can often be difficult to determine whether or not log and stump deposits are in situ.’20
In fact, these researchers think that the Permian and Triassic trees could have been transported to their current locations, partly because of a lack of bark on the trees: ‘Almost all of the wood is extensively decorticated, i.e., the outer tissues (bark) have been lost as a result of transport.’21 Lack of bark is one of the evidences used to support the log mat model.22
I need to mention that the Late Pliocene trees found in the Sirius Group in the Transantarctic Mountains13 could be post-Flood because the tree rings are quite narrow and the beech trees are a dwarf variety. The average temperature is claimed to be –12°C with a short growing season average of only 5°C. These temperatures, if correct, are significantly warmer than those exhibited in the area today, but very likely much too cold for pre-Flood vegetation. Moreover, the vegetation was found within diamictite, interpreted as glacial till. Such relatively warm-climate vegetation has generated tremendous controversy among uniformitarian scientists,23 because it suggests that much of the Antarctic Ice Sheet melted 2 to 5 million years ago! A more reasonable idea within the creationist’s Ice Age model is that the Sirius Group, with its warmer climate vegetation, represents deposits from ice caps on the Transantarctic Mountains early in the post-Flood Ice Age—before the East and West Antarctic Ice Sheets developed to a large size. Atmospheric temperature would have been much warmer early in the Ice Age because of the much warmer adjacent ocean and the copious release of latent heat to the atmosphere resulting from massive oceanic evaporation.24,25
- Oard, M.J., Mid and high latitude flora deposited in the Genesis Flood Part I: uniformitarian paradox, Creation Research Society Quarterly 32(2):107–115, 1995. Return to text.
- Oard, M.J., Polar dinosaurs and the Genesis Flood, Creation Research Society Quarterly 32(1):47–56, 1995. Return to text.
- Oard, M.J., Polar dinosaur conundrum, Journal of Creation 20(2):5–7, 2006. Return to text.
- Oard, M.J., A tropical reptile in the ‘Cretaceous’ Arctic: paleofauna challenge to uniformitarianism, Journal of Creation 14(2):9–10, 2000. Return to text.
- Oard, M., The geological column is a general Flood order with many exceptions; in: Reed, J.K. and Oard, M.J. (Eds.), The Geological Column: Perspectives within Diluvial Geology, Creation Research Society Books, Chino Valley, AZ, pp. 99–121, 2006. Return to text.
- Oard, M.J., Tropical cycad reinforces uniformitarian paleofloristic mystery, Journal of Creation 12(3):261–262, 1998. Return to text.
- Oard, M.J. and Giesecke, H., Polystrate fossils require rapid deposition, Creation Research Society Quarterly 43(4):232–240, 2007. Return to text.
- Taylor, E.L. and Ryberg, P.E., Tree growth at polar latitudes based on fossil tree ring analysis, Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 255:246–264, 2007. Return to text.
- Douglas, J.G. and Williams, G.E., Southern polar forests: the Early Cretaceous floras of Victoria and their palaeoclimatic significance, Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 39:171–185, 1982. Return to text.
- Jefferson, T.H., Fossil forests from the Lower Cretaceous of Alexander Island, Antarctica, Palaeontology 25(4):681–708, 1982. Return to text.
- 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.
- Taylor, E.L., Taylor, T.N. and Cúneo, N.R., The present is not the key to the past: a polar forest from the Permian of Antarctica, Science 257:1675–1677, 1992. Return to text.
- Francis, J.E. and Hill, R.S., Fossil plants from the Pliocene Sirius Group, Transantarctic Mountains; evidence for climate from growth rings and fossil leaves, Palaios 11:389–396, 1996. Return to text.
- Oard, M.J., Ancient Ice Ages or Gigantic Submarine Landslides, Creation Research Society Monograph No. 6, Creation Research Society, Chino Valley, AZ, 1997. Return to text.
- Woodmorappe, J., A Diluvian interpretation of ancient cyclic sedimentation; in: Woodmorappe, J. (compiler), Studies in Flood Geology, Institute for Creation Research, pp. 201–220, 1999. Return to text.
- Coffin, H.G., Origin by Design, Review and Herald Publishing Association, Washington D.C., 1983. Return to text.
- Austin, S.A., Mount St. Helens and catastrophism; in: Proceedings of the First International Conference on Creationism, Volume I basic and educational sessions, Creation Science Fellowship, Pittsburgh, PA, pp. 3–9, 1986. Return to text.
- Oard, M.J., Mid and high latitude flora deposited in the Genesis Flood Part II: creationist hypothesis, Creation Research Society Quarterly 32(3):138–141, 1995. Return to text.
- Morris, J. and Austin, S.A., Footprints in the Ash; the Explosive Story of Mount St. Helens, Master Books, Green Forest, AR, 2003. Return to text.
- Taylor, E.L., Taylor, T.N. and Cúneo, N.R., Permian and Triassic high latitude paleoclimates: evidence from fossil biotas; in: Huber, B.T., Macleod, K.G., and Wing, S.L. (Eds.), Warm climates in Earth History, Cambridge University Press, London, pp. 325–326, 2000. Return to text.
- Taylor et al., ref. 20, p. 325. Return to text.
- Morris and Austin, ref. 19, pp. 82–89. Return to text.
- Oard, M.J., The Frozen Record: Examining the Ice Core History of the Greenland and Antarctic Ice Sheets, Institute for Creation Research, Dallas, TX, pp. 33–34, 2005. Return to text.
- Oard, M.J., An Ice Age Caused by the Genesis Flood, Institute for Creation Research, El Cajon, CA, 1990. Return to text.
- Oard, M.J., Frozen in Time: the Woolly Mammoths, the Ice Age, and the Biblical Key to Their Secrets, Master Books, Green Forest, AR, 2004. Return to text.