An international team of marine geologists has just completed an expedition to an area off the coast of Surinam known as the Demerara Rise. The scientists were part of the two-month Leg 207 of the NSF-supported Ocean Drilling Program (ODP) expedition in the equatorial Atlantic Ocean. The project studied periods in Earths history that have undergone rapid climate and ocean circulation changes and likely led to mass extinctions of plants and animals.
The National Science Foundation supports the Ocean Drilling Program. Using equipment like the drill pictured here, workers obtain geologic samples from the deep seafloor that provide scientists with new information on Earths history. Examples of information documented by these samples include a history of the ocean basins and evidence of drastically changing climates on earth, including more ice ages than were previously known.
Photo Credit: Texas A&M University
Three decades ago, geologists found sediments in the Demerara Rise from the Cretaceous Period (140-65 million years ago) that contained evidence of times when the equatorial Atlantic Ocean was without oxygen. These periods, known as “ocean anoxic events,” indicate that the oceans had a vastly different circulation pattern than they do today.
"Therefore, climate would have been significantly different. We dont yet fully understand the reasons for these differences," said Jochen Erbacher of the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources in Germany. "Our objective [on this cruise] was to re-core the former site to understand past ocean circulation with respect to water depth change."
Cheryl Dybas | NSF
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