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"When Antarctica was green: Fossil plants reveal Antarctica's climate history"

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LECTURE TO COMMEMORATE THE SCIENTIFIC WORK OF SCOTT'S POLAR EXPEDITION OF 1912

Professor Jane Francis, Professor of Palaeoclimatology, of the University of Leeds will give this special lecture to commemorate the centenary of the 1912 Scientific Expedition led by Captain Scott to Antarctica.

Special access will be available to the Scott Polar Research Institute’s Exhibition “These rough notes: Captain Scott’s last expedition” from 5.00pm to 6.00pm prior to the start of the lecture. A complimentary drinks reception to follow on after the lecture, will take place in the foyer to the lecture theatre for all attendees.

The museum visit, lecture and drinks reception are open to all who are interested, no booking required.

Abstract of talk

Although the polar regions are currently covered in ice and snow, life was very different at high latitudes under past warm climates millions of years ago – the polar regions were green. Fossil plants (leaves, wood, pollen, seeds and flowers) preserved in rocks from Antarctica show that the continent was once covered in lush green forests that flourished in warm humid climates, despite the extreme polar light regime of continuous summer sunlight and long dark winters. Migration of warmth-loving floras into high latitudes occurred during times of extreme warmth; for example, during the Cretaceous (~90 million years ago) tropical species migrated as far south as Antarctica. The last Antarctic forests survived as dwarf tundra shrubs in the Beardmore Glacier region, only 300 miles from the South Pole, even as the ice sheets spread across the continent about 12 million years ago. Antarctic plant fossils contain a rich store of palaeoclimate information about past polar environments and provide us with a window into life at high latitudes in our future warm world.

This talk is part of the Cambridge Philosophical Society series.

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