Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Geologists Create 5-Million-Year Climate Record

10.04.2006


Brown University geologists have created the longest continuous record of ocean surface temperatures, dating back 5 million years. The record shows slow, steady cooling in the eastern equatorial Pacific, a finding that challenges the notion that the Ice Ages alone sparked a global cooling trend. Results are published in Science.

Using chemical clues mined from ocean mud, Brown University researchers have generated the longest continuous record of ocean temperatures on Earth.

The 5-million-year record is a history of temperatures in the eastern equatorial Pacific, or EEP, located off the coast of South America. The area is an anomaly – a huge swath of cool water in the tropics – that plays an important role in global climate. In the EEP, trade winds pull nutrient-rich cold water to the surface, which makes for fertile fisheries off the coasts of Peru, Chile and Ecuador. The interplay of wind and water can also fuel El Niño events, a large-scale warming in the EEP that slows the upwelling of cold water and forces changes in weather, such as droughts or floods, far from the tropical Pacific.



In the EEP, the Brown geology team found that surface temperatures were 27° C 5 million years ago. Surface temperatures are 23° C today. In between, they found a pattern of steady cooling – roughly one degree Celsius every million years.

This finding, published in Science, contradicts the long-standing notion that rapid glacier growth in the high northern latitudes about 3 million years ago alone set off dramatic cooling of the global climate. The finding shows instead that glaciation was part of a long-term cooling trend.

The climate record suggests that ocean regions near Antarctica were the main driver of EEP cooling by continuously pumping cold water into the area. This finding was bolstered by additional evidence that glacial cycles affected the tropical Pacific long before the advent of large ice sheets in the Northern Hemisphere.

“The Southern Hemisphere, not the Northern Hemisphere, more likely had a stronger effect on temperature and productivity in the eastern Pacific,” said Kira Lawrence, a graduate student in the Department of Geological Sciences and the lead author of the Science paper. “We may need to refocus where we look to understand the evolution of climate over the past 5 million years.”

Lawrence, post-doctoral research fellow Zhonghui Liu, and Professor Tim Herbert used sediment cores pulled from hundreds of meters below the surface of the Pacific by a ship operated by the Ocean Drilling Program, an international research organization. Moving down the cores, collecting small samples of gray mud, scientists can go back in time. The end result: Thousands of glass vials filled with climate history.

But how do you extract history from mud? The answer was found in tiny marine fossils.

To date the sediments, the geologists analyzed fossils and traces of oxygen trapped in the shells of microscopic ocean organisms. To get temperatures, the Brown team looked to algae, infinitesimal surface-dwellers that produce fatty compounds called alkenones. Algae crank out two kinds of alkenones depending on the surrounding water temperature. When water is cooler, algae make more of one kind. When water is warmer, they produce more of another. By carefully measuring the amount of these alkenones in each sample, researchers were able to calculate past surface temperatures.

The resulting 5-million-year timeline might have a practical use. Scientists trying to predict future climate change may use the data in computer simulations that model natural climate variability as well as predict the impact of accelerated warming due to greenhouse gas emissions.

Herbert said the work has other implications for understanding climate change.

“Results from the past prove that it is possible for the EEP to exist in a kind of permanent El Niño state, which would have immense climate and biological repercussions if it were to happen again under global warming,” Herbert said. “The geological evidence also suggests that to predict warming in the EEP, the key ocean region to monitor is near Antarctica.”

The National Science Foundation and the Geological Society of America funded the work.

Wendy Lawton | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.brown.edu

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Climate change weakens Walker circulation
20.10.2017 | MARUM - Zentrum für Marine Umweltwissenschaften an der Universität Bremen

nachricht Shallow soils promote savannas in South America
20.10.2017 | Senckenberg Forschungsinstitut und Naturmuseen

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Terahertz spectroscopy goes nano

20.10.2017 | Information Technology

Strange but true: Turning a material upside down can sometimes make it softer

20.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

NRL clarifies valley polarization for electronic and optoelectronic technologies

20.10.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>