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EcoAlert: Earth was Stifling Hot During Peak Age of Dinosaurs


The first maps of the Earth's forests plotted by scientists at Royal Holloway, University of London after creating a database of more than two thousand fossilised forest sites from the Cretaceous period, when dinosaurs were at their peak. The patterns of vegetation, together with information about the rate of tree growth, support the idea that the Earth was stifling hot 100 million years ago. High temperatures and possibly more atmospheric carbon dioxide caused forests to extend much closer to the poles and grow almost twice as fast as they do today. The findings have obvious implications for understanding the long-term effects of global warming.

"Some fossil trees from Antarctica had rings more than two millimetres wide on average. Such a rate of growth is usually only seen in trees growing in temperate climates. It tells us that, during the age of the dinosaurs, polar regions had a climate similar to Britain today," explains co-author Dr. Howard Falcon-Lang."Our research shows that weird monkey puzzle forests covered most of the planet, especially in the steamy tropics. At mid-latitudes there were dry cypress woodlands, and near the North Pole it was mostly pines," said Emiliano Peralta-Medina, who led the study.

Just before the dinosaurs went extinct the forests changed as angiosperms – flowering plants – made an appearance. "Flowering trees similar to present-day magnolias took off, bringing color and scent to the world for the first time," says Peralta-Medina. The angiosperms gradually spread over habitats previously dominated by the conifers; by the end of the Cretaceous they are the most common tree species.

As well as mapping the fossil forests, the team gathered measurements of tree rings from samples of fossil trees and from earlier studies, and found that Cretaceous trees grew twice as fast as their modern counterparts, particularly nearer to the poles.

The reason for this baking hot climate seems to have been extremely high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere - at least 1000 parts per million (ppm) compared to 393 ppm today.

"If carbon dioxide concentrations continue to rise unabated, we will hit Cretaceous levels in less than 250 years," explains Falcon-Lang. "If that happens, we could see forests return to Antarctica." 

More information: Peralta-Medina, E, Falcon-Lang, HJ, 2012. Cretaceous forest composition and productivity inferred from a global fossil wood database. Geology 40(3) doi: 10.1130/G32733.1

The Daily Galaxy via Geology and PlanetEarth Online

Image credit: With thanks to iStockphoto/Michael Gray


It was not that this very prosperous period was "baking hot" it is more that the current period is cold. We have cycles of ice ages since 2 millions years.

forests in antarctica? sounds good to me.

"The findings have obvious implications for understanding the long-term effects of global warming..."

Implications? Does this imply that if we let the Earth warm up, we will have a bunch of way-cool dinosaurs running around, and vegetation growing at twice the current rate? Allright!

Couldn't they at least tell us what the range of temperatures were at that time? What is "stifling hot" and "baking hot"? Is this hotter than Houston in summer? Anyhow...

I don't know why so many seem to think that a warmer earth means greater desertification. We already know the more heat will cause more evaporation from the worlds oceans and that plants when grown in a terrarium with increased carbon dioxide grow both quicker and larger.

So wouldn't this mean that increases in carbon dioxide will create a wetter and more lush planet?

Correlation is no causation. We could say, for example, warmer temperatures, warmer oceans, CO2 liberated from the said warmer waters.

Or there just could be a common cause for higher temperatures and higher CO2 levels.

Vostok ice cores show that CO2 highs and lows happened around 800 after highs and lows in temperature... a lagged response.

And, of course, "baking hot" and the like is no science. Numbers, sirs, numbers.

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If today man face the situation like the end of the dinosaur era,He will certainly want to escape to another planet for survival. And today attempts are the series of the same strategy. He will takes some pairs of different animals along with him and lifts other. May be its occurred in dinosaurs era may be there was Human type creature and Evolutionary process made it to left the earth when it become Cooled. And migrated to another planet along with some pairs of Dinosours family creatures. Quran the Muslim divine book says The creator created a creature before Man from fire when the Earth was still Hot . Quran doesn't say it was Vanished but say it become non visible on earth today

I love how ldiots think "forests" in Antarctica are a good thing.

Meanwhile the rest of the planet is physically too hot for humans to survive, and anything lower of 40th parallel is so hot it will physically kill you (because the ambient temperature is too hot to dissipate heat from your body to below a mild fever).

Meanwhile the heat change will cause a massive extinction level event, kill off Corals like in the time of the dinosaurs, leaving the oceans depleted with 50% as much biomass...how will we feed 7 billion people with 50% the biomass of Oceans today?

Oh, don't forget that Reptiles do better in hotter humid environments, snakes length/size are dependent upon heat.

The last time temperatures matched TODAY's CO2 levels (temps are rising to adjust to the new levels)....

Snakes were the size of buses, and as venomous as Cobras.

Good luck living in a world with trees in Antarctica.

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