Cretaceous Soup

You think we’re in hot water now?

A new study of ancient sediments and fossils indicates that between 84 and 100 million years ago, the tropical Atlantic ranged from 90 degrees to 107 degrees F (32 – 42 degrees C)

The same region today averages around 80 degrees F (27 degrees C).

The atmosphere had more heat-trapping carbon dioxide back then, but even climate models that consider increases in carbon dioxide can’t account for all of it.

Scientists don’t yet know what might have caused ocean temperatures to get so high, but the effect on life in the oceans, as well as on shore, was surely significant.

For most people, hot tubs get very uncomfortable above 104 degrees F (40 degrees C), and most modern marine organisms would cook, but Cretaceous seas were teeming with life.

In fact, the Cretaceous geologic period – characterized by thick layers of limestone deposits, like the famous Cliffs of Dover – derives its name from kreta, the Greek word for chalk.

Composed of the calcium-rich shells of marine organisms, this pale layer is found in ancient sediments the world over. Even on the flanks of Mount Everest, a broad yellowish band of lime-stone, full of seashell fossils, towers 20,000 feet above the ancient seas that produced it.

Initially thought to be evidence of the Biblical flood, we now know that Earth’s tectonic forces are to blame: India’s northward journey, from its South African origins, pushed seabed of the ancient Tethys Sea ahead of it like a bulldozer, and slammed it into the soft underbelly of Asia, creating in the process the greatest mountain range on the planet, the Himalayas.

Milos Radakovich



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