Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New Interpretation of Antarctic Ice Cores

03.03.2011
Researchers at Alfred Wegener Institute expand prevailing theory on climate history

Climate researchers at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in the Helmholtz Association (AWI) expand a prevalent theory regarding the development of ice ages. In the current issue of the journal “Nature” three physicists from AWI’s working group “Dynamics of the Palaeoclimate” present new calculations on the connection between natural insolation and long-term changes in global climate activity.

Up to now the presumption was that temperature fluctuations in Antarctica, which have been reconstructed for the last million years on the basis of ice cores, were triggered by the global effect of climate changes in the northern hemisphere. The new study shows, however, that major portions of the temperature fluctuations can be explained equally well by local climate changes in the southern hemisphere.

The variations in the Earth’s orbit and the inclination of the Earth have given decisive impetus to the climate changes over the last million years. Serbian mathematician Milutin Milankovitch calculated their influence on the seasonal distribution of insolation back at the beginning of the 20th century and they have been a subject of debate as an astronomic theory of the ice ages since that time. Because land surfaces in particular react sensitively to changes in insolation, whereas the land masses on the Earth are unequally distributed, Milankovitch generally felt insolation changes in the northern hemisphere were of outstanding importance for climate change over long periods of time. His considerations became the prevailing working hypothesis in current climate research as numerous climate reconstructions based on ice cores, marine sediments and other climate archives appear to support it.

AWI scientists Thomas Laepple, Gerrit Lohmann and Martin Werner have analysed again the temperature reconstructions based on ice cores in depth for the now published study. For the first time they took into account that the winter temperature has a greater influence than the summer temperature in the recorded signal in the Antarctic ice cores. If this effect is included in the model calculations, the temperature fluctuations reconstructed from ice cores can also be explained by local climate changes in the southern hemisphere.

Thomas Laepple, who is currently conducting research at Harvard University in the US through a scholarship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, explains the significance of the new findings: “Our results are also interesting because they may lead us out of a scientific dead end.” After all, the question of whether and how climate activity in the northern hemisphere is linked to that in the southern hemisphere is one of the most exciting scientific issues in connection with our understanding of climate change. Thus far many researchers have attempted to explain historical Earth climate data from Antarctica on the basis of Milankovitch’s classic hypothesis. “To date, it hasn’t been possible to plausibly substantiate all aspects of this hypothesis, however,” states Laepple. “Now the game is open again and we can try to gain a better understanding of the long-term physical mechanisms that influence the alternation of ice ages and warm periods.”

“Moreover, we were able to show that not only data from ice cores, but also data from marine sediments display similar shifts in certain seasons. That’s why there are still plenty of issues to discuss regarding further interpretation of palaeoclimate data,” adds Gerrit Lohmann. The AWI physicists emphasise that a combination of high-quality data and models can provide insights into climate change. “Knowledge about times in the distant past helps us to understand the dynamics of the climate. Only in this way will we learn how the Earth’s climate has changed and how sensitively it reacts to changes.”

To avoid misunderstandings, a final point is very important for the AWI scientists. The new study does not call into question that the currently observed climate change has, for the most part, anthropogenic causes. Cyclic changes, as those examined in the Nature publication, take place in phases lasting tens of thousand or hundreds of thousands of years. The drastic emission of anthropogenic climate gases within a few hundred years adds to the natural rise in greenhouse gases after the last ice age and is unique for the last million years. How the climate system, including the complex physical and biological feedbacks, will develop in the long run is the subject of current research at the Alfred Wegener Institute.

The original title of the publication to which this press release refers is: Laepple, T., M. Werner, and G. Lohmann, 2011: Synchronicity of Antarctic temperatures and local solar insolation on orbital time scales. It will be published in the magazine “Nature” on 3 March 2011 (doi:10.1038/nature09825).

You will find printable pictures at http://www.awi.de.

The Alfred Wegener Institute conducts research in the Arctic, Antarctic and oceans of the high and mid latitudes. It coordinates polar research in Germany and provides major infrastructure to the international scientific community, such as the research icebreaker Polarstern and stations in the Arctic and Antarctica. The Alfred Wegener Institute is one of the seventeen research centres of the Helmholtz Association, the largest scientific organisation in Germany.

Margarete Pauls | idw
Further information:
http://www.awi.de

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A Challenging European Research Project to Develop New Tiny Microscopes

The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.

To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

'On-off switch' brings researchers a step closer to potential HIV vaccine

30.03.2017 | Health and Medicine

Penn studies find promise for innovations in liquid biopsies

30.03.2017 | Health and Medicine

An LED-based device for imaging radiation induced skin damage

30.03.2017 | Medical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>