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 Research spotlights a previously unknown microbial 'drama' playing in the Southern Ocean
31.07.2015 | National Science Foundation

nachricht Past and present sea levels in the Chesapeake Bay Region, USA
29.07.2015 | Geological Society of America

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Quantum Matter Stuck in Unrest

Using ultracold atoms trapped in light crystals, scientists from the MPQ, LMU, and the Weizmann Institute observe a novel state of matter that never thermalizes.

What happens if one mixes cold and hot water? After some initial dynamics, one is left with lukewarm water—the system has thermalized to a new thermal...

Im Focus: On the crest of the wave: Electronics on a time scale shorter than a cycle of light

Physicists from Regensburg and Marburg, Germany have succeeded in taking a slow-motion movie of speeding electrons in a solid driven by a strong light wave. In the process, they have unraveled a novel quantum phenomenon, which will be reported in the forthcoming edition of Nature.

The advent of ever faster electronics featuring clock rates up to the multiple-gigahertz range has revolutionized our day-to-day life. Researchers and...

Im Focus: Superfast fluorescence sets new speed record

Plasmonic device has speed and efficiency to serve optical computers

Researchers have developed an ultrafast light-emitting device that can flip on and off 90 billion times a second and could form the basis of optical computing.

Im Focus: Unlocking the rice immune system

Joint BioEnergy Institute study identifies bacterial protein that is key to protecting rice against bacterial blight

A bacterial signal that when recognized by rice plants enables the plants to resist a devastating blight disease has been identified by a multi-national team...

Im Focus: Smarter window materials can control light and energy

Researchers in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin are one step closer to delivering smart windows with a new level of energy efficiency, engineering materials that allow windows to reveal light without transferring heat and, conversely, to block light while allowing heat transmission, as described in two new research papers.

By allowing indoor occupants to more precisely control the energy and sunlight passing through a window, the new materials could significantly reduce costs for...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

3rd Euro Bio-inspired - International Conference and Exhibition on Bio-inspired Materials

23.07.2015 | Event News

Clash of Realities – International Conference on the Art, Technology and Theory of Digital Games

10.07.2015 | Event News

World Conference on Regenerative Medicine in Leipzig: Last chance to submit abstracts until 2 July

25.06.2015 | Event News

 
Latest News

Tool making and additive technology exhibition: Fraunhofer IPT at Formnext

31.07.2015 | Trade Fair News

First Siemens-built Thameslink train arrives in London

31.07.2015 | Transportation and Logistics

California 'rain debt' equal to average full year of precipitation

31.07.2015 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>