Over this time period, when the Earth is known to have transitioned from "hothouse" to "icehouse" conditions, the oceans also experienced a dramatic shift in the carbonate compensation depth, or CCD. Defined as the depth below which carbonate minerals (such as calcite) dissolve completely, the CCD is known to fluctuate over time – it shallows during warm periods, and deepens when ice age conditions prevail. Now, however, scientists have a detailed and quantifiable record of just how much the CCD has shifted during recent geological history.
The study, which relies on seafloor sediment cores collected during a pair of 2009 expeditions on board the JOIDES Resolution, demonstrates that 55 million years ago, the CCD of the Pacific Ocean sat at an average of about two miles (3.3-3.6 km) below the sea surface. As the Earth cooled, however, the CCD sank – reaching its deepest point of almost three miles (4.8 km) between 13 and 11 million years ago. Today, the Pacific's CCD sits just less than three miles (4.5 km) deep, and is thought to be on the rise as a result of modern, human-induced climate change.
"Long-term change in CCD and changes in Earth's atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration both result from shifts in how carbon is cycled by earth processes," says study co-author Mitchell Lyle, a geoscientist at Texas A&M University who co-led the second of the two expeditions. "Adding geologic reserves of carbon into the oceans and atmosphere – by burning coal or petroleum, for example – causes oceans to become more acidic and causes the atmosphere and oceans to warm. This new CCD record is an important step toward understanding how the carbon system balances out over long time frames."
The Pacific Ocean has remained the largest ocean on Earth for millions of years. Today, it covers one third of the planet's surface, and its biologically productive equatorial region plays a very important role in the global carbon cycle and long-term climate patterns. Over four months, the drilling vessel JOIDES Resolution – operated by the U.S. Implementing Organization on behalf of the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) – drilled nearly four miles of core samples at eight different locations across the center of the Pacific basin.
"We often discuss global warming induced by man-made carbon dioxide. However, on geological timescales of millions of years, other processes determine the carbon cycle," says lead author Heiko Pälike, a geoscientist at the University of Bremen who co-led the first expedition. Volcanoes are a major natural source of atmospheric carbon dioxide, while the weathering of carbonate rocks can remove the gas from the atmosphere. "The overall balance of these processes is reflected in the CCD," explains Pälike.
In the Nature study, Pälike, Lyle and their co-authors demonstrate that, in the equatorial Pacific, the CCD did not follow a one-way path to the depths as the planet cooled down. Rather, the data reveals five intervals in the "greenhouse" world (prior to 33 million years ago) during which the CCD fluctuated upwards and downwards in a range between 650 and 3,000 feet (200-900 meters), and at least four more major excursions in the last 20 million years. "These events, which often mirror warming and cooling phases, persisted between 250,000 and one million years," Pälike explains. They resulted from minor differences between how much calcium was added to the oceans by weathering versus how much carbon dioxide was added to the ocean-atmosphere system by volcanic eruptions. The cycling of carbon between the sea surface and deep ocean further complicated the situation.
The paper, titled "A Cenozoic record of the equatorial Pacific carbonate compensation depth," appears in the August 30, 2012 issue of the journal Nature. (doi:10.1038/nature11360)About IODP
Connect with us online!
Twitter: @theJR and @SeafloorSciMedia Contacts:
Keith Randall | EurekAlert!
The Great Unknown: Risk-Taking Behavior in Adolescents
19.01.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung
A sudden drop in outdoor temperature increases the risk of respiratory infections
11.01.2017 | University of Gothenburg
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
20.01.2017 | Awards Funding
20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.01.2017 | Life Sciences