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Underground Fossil Forest in Illinois Offers Clues on Climate Change - NYT

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  • Teresa Binstock
    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/01/science/underground-fossil-forest-in-illinois-offers-clues-on-climate-change.html An Underground Fossil Forest Offers Clues
    Message 1 of 1 , May 1 5:23 AM
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      http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/01/science/underground-fossil-forest-in-illinois-offers-clues-on-climate-change.html


      An Underground Fossil Forest Offers Clues on Climate Change

      By W. BARKSDALE MAYNARD

      In the clammy depths of a southern Illinois coal mine lies the largest
      fossil forest ever discovered, at least 50 times as extensive as the
      previous contender.

      Scientists are exploring dripping passages by the light of headlamps,
      mapping out an ecosystem from 307 million years ago, just before the
      world's first great forests were wiped out by global warming. This vast
      prehistoric landscape may shed new light on climate change today.

      Dating from the Pennsylvanian period of the Carboniferous era, the
      forest lies entombed in a series of eight active mines. They burrow
      through the rich seams of the Springfield Coal, a nationally important
      energy resource that underlies much of Illinois and two neighboring
      states and has been heavily mined for decades.

      Pushed downward over the ages by the crushing weight of rock layers
      higher up, the Springfield forest lies at varying depths, 250 to 800
      feet underground. The researchers have only sampled it so far, in the
      vicinity of Galatia, Illinois, but they think it extends more than 100
      miles in one direction; its width has not been ascertained. An earlier
      discovery by the same team, the Herrin Coal forest farther north in
      Illinois, is just two miles long.

      "Effectively you've got a lost world," said Howard Falcon-Lang, a
      paleontologist at Royal Holloway, University of London, who has explored
      the site. "It's the closest thing you'll find to time travel," he added....















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