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Global warming could make Antarctica green again, according to USC, JPL scientists

Giant tabular icebergs surrounded by ice floe drift in Vincennes Bay in the Australian Antarctic Territory on January 11, 2008. Australia's CSIRO's atmospheric research unit has found the world is warming faster than predicted by the United Nations' top climate change body, with harmful emissions exceeding worst-case estimates.
Torsten BlackwoodGetty Images
Giant tabular icebergs surrounded by ice floe drift in Vincennes Bay in the Australian Antarctic Territory.

Environmental scientists say we could see a repeat of climate conditions from a time when plants grew not far from the South Pole.

The study in Nature Geoscience looked at leafy plants that thrived along Antarctica’s coast 15 million years ago. Scientists from USC, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Louisiana State University examined sediment cores taken from the deep sea, under the Ross Ice Shelf.

What they found inside was plant material — and, on the leaves, wax. The wax traps chemical information about how those plants slurped up water, information which helped researchers reconstruct how rain fell millions of years ago.

The study’s authors say the sediment cores tell them what climate conditions existed millions of years ago. They also say that as global warming progresses, those conditions might exist again by the end of this century.

If they’re right, we could soon see an Antarctica that’s more green than white.