How Antarctica got its ice

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Science  01 Apr 2016:
Vol. 352, Issue 6281, pp. 34-35
DOI: 10.1126/science.aad6284

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  • RE: The authors of this column mentioned many similar explanations of "How Antarctica got its ice" while neglecting one very different one.

    C. LEAR and D. LUNT (PERSPECTIVES, 1 APRIL, p. 34) summarize the various conclusions of 15 published individuals or groups concerned with “How Antarctica got its ice.” However, they left out any mention of “the elephant in the room”, i.e., the giant asteroidal impacts creating the 85-km-diameter Chesapeake Bay crater and the contemporaneous 100-km-diameter Popigai crater in Siberia. Fawcett and Boslough (1) have made the case that the late-Eocene/early-Oligocene cooling event might well have been the result of one of those energetic impacts inserting sufficient material into Earth orbit to create a transient Saturn-like ring, which during its lifetime would have shadowed and severely cooled the tropics and subtropics according to their state-of-the-art climate calculations. Zachos et al. (2) and Pälike et al. (3) have published definitive articles on data encompassing to the Eocene/Oligocene (E/O) boundary. Pälike et al. (3) found “that onset of glaciation is independent of the exact timing of CO2 reduction and is triggered by astronomical forcing as soon as atmospheric CO2 levels are close to threshold value” and further “that a decrease in atmospheric CO2 is a possible mechanism to explain the record across the E-O transition.” Now, on the strength of Fawcett and Boslough’s work (1) I have proposed a different “possible mechanism” leading to the very same result (4). That is, 35.4 Ma (the accepted age of the Chesapeake Bay crater) – 35.2 Ma = 200 ky may have been the...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.

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