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Reptiles Enjoyed Warm Arctic

An article written by ABC News writer Kenneth Chang discusses the change in climate of the arctic from ninety million years ago. Seven hundred miles from the North Pole, lies an island called Axel Heiberg, a barren land that scientists have dug up fossil bones of a cold-blooded reptile known as a champsosaur. How does this happen in an arctic, freezing land? How does a reptile that needs the warmth of the sun to survive, live in a frigid climate? Well, we know they lived on Axel Heiberg, so at one point in time the island was obviously somewhat tropical.

It was probably something like Florida or Georgia currently is, except some ninety million years ago. Temperatures were likely to average almost sixty degrees Fahrenheit, with summer temperatures getting into the eighties and even nineties. The same cannot be said about the current Axel Heiberg climate. Nowadays, summer sees snowfall, and winter temperatures routinely hit minus sixty degrees Fahrenheit. Granted, it’s been millions of years, but what causes this kind of climate change? Gigantic lava flows could be the answer.

In 1996, 30-foot-thick layers of rock were discovered on Axel Heiberg Island. These layers were caused by one single volcanic eruption. Similar eruptions in Iceland and Hawaii caused 3-foot layers. This is a very big difference in the lava flows. Similar flows have been discovered in the Caribbean, Pacific Ocean, South Africa, and even Southwest United States. These eruptions could distribute Carbon Dioxide into the atmosphere. Magma rose from the earth’s center, shooting “heat-trapping” Carbon Dioxide molecules into the air, which raises the temperatures.

This is the same CO2 problem that is occurring right now in our world. We see this in the Greenhouse Effect, which eventually leads into Global Warming. The Greenhouse Effect, which is defined as ” the warming of an atmosphere by its absorbing and reemitting infrared radiation while allowing short-wave radiation to pass through. The gases that are responsible for the Earth’s atmospheric Greenhouse Effect are Water Vapor and Carbon Dioxide. ” The same Carbon Dioxide that was being emitted millions of years ago from the volcanic eruptions.

Carbon Dioxide is an infrared radiation absorber, which makes it such an important aspect of Global Warming. This is one of the main reasons for the current Global Warming we are experiencing. The CO2 is steadily increasing in the atmosphere, due to the burning of fossil fuels. Deforestation is also adding to this increase in Carbon Dioxide, due to tropical rain forests being cut down, and being replaced by less effective CO2-removing plants. Numerical climate models predict that by the year 2100 the greenhouse gases will warm the surface air of the earth by two to six degrees Fahrenheit.

Knowing this, one might realize how the island of Axel Heiberg was once part of tropic climate. Don Brinkman, curator of vertebrae paleontology at the Royal Tyrell Museum, says that the average temperature of Axel Heiberg was at least fifty-seven degrees Fahrenheit. “This is giving a minimum estimate,” says Bunkman, “It may have been warmer! ” These estimates are being measured by the living needs of the organisms’ bones that were discovered on the island in 1996. Depending on the organism, the temperature has to be at least a certain degrees for them to survive.

Cold Blooded animals need warmth to survive, and these animals obviously survived. This period, millions of years ago, was warm, but it couldn’t have been that warm! If it were too warm, the Tropics would’ve been overheated. This would’ve killed off many species around the equator, but fossil records don’t show any die-off during that period. This period seems to have lasted one to two million years before it ever cooled off again. What is the problem with this “Global Warming? ” There are several negative effects that coincide with Global Warming.

First, annual average precipitation will be greater amongst most regions. At the same time, shifting winds might reduce rain, inducing difficult agricultural conditions. This is especially difficult since models predict that more precipitation will fall over higher latitudes during the winter. Also, more extreme precipitation events might occur, such as floods and droughts. Among other problems might be a rise in sea level due to the melting of glaciers, which would also expand the oceans as they warm up.

In just one hundred years, the water could rise as much as twenty inches from its present level. Not all of the effects of Global Warming are negative. Many scientists predict that the increase in carbon dioxide will act as a fertilizer for some plants, which will accelerate their growth. More plants will consume more CO2, which might even out the over-abundance of carbon dioxide in our environment. The effect that this warming will have on the world is still not clear.

Most models suggest that the lower atmosphere will warm, while the upper atmosphere will cool at the same rate. This cooling that we might see is brought on by the addition of CO2, which emits more infrared radiation to space than they receive in return. Global Warming is without a doubt going on in our world today. What are the consequences? We are not totally sure. Is it a good thing? The negatives out-weigh the positives. One thing that is realized is that if this keeps up, the Island of Axel Neiberg might be a tropic climate like it once was millions of years ago!

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