Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Prehistoric Rocks Contain Clues for Future Climate

25.09.2012
For most of the past decade, Dr. Wan Yang has spent his summers in the Bogda Mountains in northwest China, collecting rock samples that predate dinosaurs by millions of years in an effort to better understand the history of the earth’s climate and perhaps gain clues about future climate change.

“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, news@mst.edu

Mindy Limback | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.mst.edu

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Oceans may be large, overlooked source of hydrogen gas
21.07.2016 | Duke University

nachricht Groundwater discharge to upper Colorado River Basin varies in response to drought
21.07.2016 | US Geological Survey

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Mapping electromagnetic waveforms

Munich Physicists have developed a novel electron microscope that can visualize electromagnetic fields oscillating at frequencies of billions of cycles per second.

Temporally varying electromagnetic fields are the driving force behind the whole of electronics. Their polarities can change at mind-bogglingly fast rates, and...

Im Focus: Continental tug-of-war - until the rope snaps

Breakup of continents with two speed: Continents initially stretch very slowly along the future splitting zone, but then move apart very quickly before the onset of rupture. The final speed can be up to 20 times faster than in the first, slow extension phase.phases

Present-day continents were shaped hundreds of millions of years ago as the supercontinent Pangaea broke apart. Derived from Pangaea’s main fragments Gondwana...

Im Focus: A Peek into the “Birthing Room” of Ribosomes

Scaffolding and specialised workers help with the delivery – Heidelberg biochemists gain new insights into biogenesis

A type of scaffolding on which specialised workers ply their trade helps in the manufacturing process of the two subunits from which the ribosome – the protein...

Im Focus: New protocol enables analysis of metabolic products from fixed tissues

Scientists at the Helmholtz Zentrum München have developed a new mass spectrometry imaging method which, for the first time, makes it possible to analyze hundreds of metabolites in fixed tissue samples. Their findings, published in the journal Nature Protocols, explain the new access to metabolic information, which will offer previously unexploited potential for tissue-based research and molecular diagnostics.

In biomedical research, working with tissue samples is indispensable because it permits insights into the biological reality of patients, for example, in...

Im Focus: Computer Simulation Renders Transient Chemical Structures Visible

Chemists at the University of Basel have succeeded in using computer simulations to elucidate transient structures in proteins. In the journal Angewandte Chemie, the researchers set out how computer simulations of details at the atomic level can be used to understand proteins’ modes of action.

Using computational chemistry, it is possible to characterize the motion of individual atoms of a molecule. Today, the latest simulation techniques allow...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

GROWING IN CITIES - Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Urban Gardening

15.07.2016 | Event News

SIGGRAPH2016 Computer Graphics Interactive Techniques, 24-28 July, Anaheim, California

15.07.2016 | Event News

Partner countries of FAIR accelerator meet in Darmstadt and approve developments

11.07.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Hey robot, shimmy like a centipede

22.07.2016 | Information Technology

New record in materials research: 1 terapascals in a laboratory

22.07.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

University of Graz researchers challenge 140-year-old paradigm of lichen symbiosis

22.07.2016 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>