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The early Paleocene was slightly cooler than the preceding Cretaceous, though temperatures rose again late in the epoch. The climate was warm and humid world-wide, with subtropical vegetation growing in Greenland and Patagonia. The poles were cool and temperate; North America, Europe, Australia and southern South America were warm and temperate; equatorial areas had tropical climates; and north and south of the equatorial areas, climates were hot and arid.
Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas which, despite its atmospheric lifetime of around 12 years, nonetheless has a global warming potential of 62 over 20 years and 21 over 100 years (IPCC, 1996; Berner and Berner, 1996; vanLoon and Duffy, 2000). The sudden release of large amounts of natural gas from methane clathrate deposits has been hypothesized as a cause of past and possibly future climate changes. Events possibly linked in this way are the Permian-Triassic extinction event, the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum.