“The formation of rocks has everything to do with climate,” says the associate professor of geological sciences and engineering at Missouri University of Science and Technology. “Different climate settings have different sediments, soil types and vegetation. The beauty of the geological record is that we can see changes in the past, which gives us some guide to predict future changes.”
Yang spends his summers working in northwest China because it’s one of the few places to have a land record from Pangea, the supercontinent that existed between 200 million and 350 million years ago. Land records are hard to preserve because they are exposed to the elements, Yang says, so most research has typically been done using marine records instead. The seawater offers better protection of the rocks below, as Missouri S&T students saw first-hand in June during a field course led by Yang and two other professors from Trinity and Guizhou universities in southern China.
After the field course was complete, Yang, along with two Missouri S&T graduate students and collaborators from Chinese institutes, spent six weeks camping and hiking in the high desert, where temperatures averaged between 100 and 120 degrees. The team was surprised to uncover a complete, fossil skeleton of a vertebrate animal while working to collect their samples. The two-foot long skeleton was later covered to protect it from being exposed to the elements.
“Most people don’t realize that 250 million years ago, the greatest, most severe mass extinction in the earth’s history occurred,” Yang says. “That’s when the earth’s climate shifted from icehouse to greenhouse. There are a lot of theories, but we don’t know the real causes of the mass extinction yet.”
Yang returned to Rolla in early August with more than 300 pounds of volcanic ash (known as tuff). Zircon, a special mineral in the ash, can be used to accurately date the rocks and will help to more precisely determine the pace of the terrestrial mass extinction and climatic change, he says.
“There are so many things we would like to know,” he says.
What is known is that after remaining in a greenhouse state for about 230 million years, the earth transitioned back to an icehouse climate roughly 30 million years ago. Since then, the earth’s climate has cycled between glacial and interglacial periods. For example, 18,000 years ago there were glaciers just north of Kansas City, Mo., he says.
“For the last 6,000 years, we’ve been in an interglacial period,” he says. “The climate has been warm but it’s within natural variations. We’ve seen more extreme ones and theoretically, it’s time to go glacial,” Yang says.
Yang plans to return to northwest China on a regular basis throughout his career to conduct more detailed studies in a wider area.
Contact: Missouri S&T Public Relations, 573-341-4328, email@example.com
Mindy Limback | Newswise Science News
NASA sees wind shear affecting Hurricane Ignacio
02.09.2015 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Oxygen oasis in Antarctic lake reflects Earth in the distant past
02.09.2015 | University of California - Davis
China's Loess Plateau was formed by wind alternately depositing dust or removing dust over the last 2.6 million years, according to a new report from University of Arizona geoscientists. The study is the first to explain how the steep-fronted plateau formed.
China's Loess Plateau was formed by wind alternately depositing dust or removing dust over the last 2.6 million years, according to a new report from...
The leaves of the lotus flower, and other natural surfaces that repel water and dirt, have been the model for many types of engineered liquid-repelling surfaces. As slippery as these surfaces are, however, tiny water droplets still stick to them. Now, Penn State researchers have developed nano/micro-textured, highly slippery surfaces able to outperform these naturally inspired coatings, particularly when the water is a vapor or tiny droplets.
Enhancing the mobility of liquid droplets on rough surfaces could improve condensation heat transfer for power-plant heat exchangers, create more efficient...
Longer, more severe, and hotter droughts and a myriad of other threats, including diseases and more extensive and severe wildfires, are threatening to transform some of the world's temperate forests, a new study published in Science has found. Without informed management, some forests could convert to shrublands or grasslands within the coming decades.
"While we have been trying to manage for resilience of 20th century conditions, we realize now that we must prepare for transformations and attempt to ease...
A University of Oklahoma astrophysicist and his Chinese collaborator have found two supermassive black holes in Markarian 231, the nearest quasar to Earth, using observations from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.
The discovery of two supermassive black holes--one larger one and a second, smaller one--are evidence of a binary black hole and suggests that supermassive...
A team of European researchers have developed a model to simulate the impact of tsunamis generated by earthquakes and applied it to the Eastern Mediterranean. The results show how tsunami waves could hit and inundate coastal areas in southern Italy and Greece. The study is published today (27 August) in Ocean Science, an open access journal of the European Geosciences Union (EGU).
Though not as frequent as in the Pacific and Indian oceans, tsunamis also occur in the Mediterranean, mainly due to earthquakes generated when the African...
20.08.2015 | Event News
20.08.2015 | Event News
19.08.2015 | Event News
02.09.2015 | Physics and Astronomy
02.09.2015 | Life Sciences
02.09.2015 | Awards Funding