Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


The winds of change

Dartmouth researchers learn that North America's wind patterns have shifted significantly in the past 30,000 years

Dartmouth researchers have learned that the prevailing winds in the mid latitudes of North America, which now blow from the west, once blew from the east. They reached this conclusion by analyzing 14,000- to 30,000-year-old wood samples from areas in the mid-latitudes of North America (40-50°N), which represents the region north of Denver and Philadelphia and south of Winnipeg and Vancouver.

The researchers report their findings online on Jan. 23 in the journal Geology, published by the Geological Society of America.

"Today in the mid-latitude zone of North America, marine moisture is transported either from the west coast by westerly winds, or from both the west and east coasts by storms," says Xiahong Feng, the paper's lead author and a professor of earth sciences. "In this study, we found evidence that during the last glacial period, about 14-36 thousand years ago, the prevailing wind in this zone was easterly, and marine moisture came predominantly from the East Coast."

Feng explains that global climate change is often manifested by changes in general atmospheric circulation, i.e. winds, and this results in changing temperature and precipitation patterns. Clues of past climates usually hint at temperature and precipitation changes, but this is the first time that changing continental wind patterns have been reconstructed.

The researchers gathered their evidence using oxygen and hydrogen isotopic compositions of cellulose extracted from ancient wood. Feng and her team interpret the historic prevailing easterlies to be a result of a growing and intensifying northern circumpolar vortex, which was influenced by the powerful Laurentide Ice Sheet, an enormous mass of ice that covered a great deal of northern North America. Under this circulation regime, the jet stream shifted southward, and as a result, the Pacific Northwest received much less marine moisture from the Pacific. This is consistent with earlier studies of vegetation in the Pacific Northwest, indicating that the region was significantly drier during the last glaciation.

Dartmouth researchers look at ancient wood to determine 30,000-year-old wind patterns.

"This study is likely to open up new avenues of research based on oxygen and hydrogen isotopes in old wood," says Feng. "Climate change involves interactions among temperature, precipitation, and wind, but until now research has rarely been able to observe or confirm prehistoric winds and their continental-scale patterns. In the future, studies using this methodology will be able to look into ancient climates through a new window, and test hypotheses about climate change mechanisms. Such studies can potentially lead to more realistic formulations of future climate scenarios and better evaluations of their plausibility."

In addition to Xiahong Feng, who also holds the Frederick Hall Professorship in Mineralogy and Geology at Dartmouth, other authors on the paper include: Allison L. Reddington, a member of the Dartmouth Class of 2004; Anthony M. Faiia, Dartmouth research associate; Eric S. Posmentier, adjunct professor of earth sciences at Dartmouth; Yong Shu, Dartmouth PhD candidate; and Xiaomei Xu, from the Earth System Science Department at the University of California, Irvine.

"This study began as Allison Reddington's undergraduate honors thesis," says Feng. "This exemplifies the extraordinary opportunities that undergraduates at Dartmouth have to become integral parts of research groups."

Sue Knapp | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht UCI and NASA document accelerated glacier melting in West Antarctica
26.10.2016 | University of California - Irvine

nachricht Ice shelf vibrations cause unusual waves in Antarctic atmosphere
25.10.2016 | American Geophysical Union

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Greater Range and Longer Lifetime

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VDI presents International Bionic Award of the Schauenburg Foundation

26.10.2016 | Awards Funding

3-D-printed magnets

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>