Fossil Floras of the Arctic Regions


THE author of the valuable paper communicated in NATURE, vol xix. p. 124, on “The Fossil Floras of the Arctic Regions”, will find in an essay of mine, entitled “Thalassa”, and published in the course of last year, a number of facts and arguments in corroboration of his views regarding the influence of oceanic currents upon climate. In this essay, which is mainly founded upon the observations made on board H.M.S. Challenger, I have endeavoured to show how a relatively trifling elevation or depression of the sea-coast or of the bed of the ocean may considerably alter the configuration of an oceanic basin; how such an alteration must affect the direction, volume and temperature of existing currents, and thus have a tendency to change the climate and ultimately the distribution of animal and plant life in the regions bordering on the oceanic basin. I also (p. 29–30) ventured to express the opinion that “it appears hardly necessary to go in search of vast cosmic changes, such as an alteration in the position of the terrestrial axis, a diminution in the amount of solar heat … while we have, close at hand, an agency whose effect upon climatic conditions may be said to be a matter of daily experience, and which is sufficiently powerful to establish, in almost any region on the earth's surface, the small difference of temperature which is a decree of life or of death to numerous animal and vegetable organisms”. To this I may now add, that the influence of oceanic currents upon climate and upon the distribution of life will be most felt and produce the most remarkable results in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions, which, as we know, may at one period be swept by powerful polar currents, at another invaded by vast masses of warm water brought there by currents from the tropical regions, such, for example, as the Gulf Stream.

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