Palynomorphs from a sediment core reveal a sudden remarkably warm Antarctica during the middle Miocene

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An exceptional triple palynological signal (unusually high abundance of marine, freshwater, and terrestrial palynomorphs) recovered from a core collected during the 2007 ANDRILL (Antarctic geologic drilling program) campaign in the Ross Sea, Antarctica, provides constraints for the Middle Miocene Climatic Optimum. Compared to elsewhere in the core, this signal comprises a 2000-fold increase in two species of dinoflagellate cysts, a synchronous five-fold increase in freshwater algae, and up to an 80-fold increase in terrestrial pollen, including a proliferation of woody plants. Together, these shifts in the palynological assemblages ca. 15.7 Ma ago represent a relatively short period of time during which Antarctica became abruptly much warmer. Land temperatures reached 10 °C (January mean), estimated annual sea-surface temperatures ranged from 0 to 11.5 °C, and increased freshwater input lowered the salinity during a short period of sea-ice reduction. © 2009 Geological Society of America.

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