“And we don’t know where it came from,” says University of New Hampshire’s Will Clyde, associate professor of geology. “This is a big part of the carbon cycle that affected the climate system, and we don’t understand it.”
This month, Clyde is leading a pioneering National Science Foundation-funded geological study in the Bighorn Basin of Wyoming to search for clues to this event, which occurred during a period of extreme warming called the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM). A team of 27 scientists from 11 institutions will drill a series of cores into the basin’s stratified layers of rocks that they hope will yield better understanding of this mystery and – perhaps – of current and future global climate change.
This field work, in an area just east of Yellowstone National Park near Cody, Wyo., will be the first time scientists have drilled continental cores in an attempt to better understand this release of carbon and the warming, an environmental anomaly called a hyperthermal event, that surrounded it. Previous research has utilized ocean cores or more weathered rock outcroppings.
The sedimentary deposits in the semi-arid, 100-mile-wide Bighorn Basin created ideal conditions for studying the PETM. Drilling two-and-a-half-inch diameter cores about 150 meters into the sediment, says Clyde, will advance research by providing pristine sediments on which scientists can do more precise geocehmical analyses.
“It will help us better understand the long-term carbon cycle of the Earth,” says Clyde, who chairs the Earth sciences department in UNH’s College of Engineering and Physical Sciences (CEPS).
It’s not just ancient history Clyde and his colleagues are interested in. Researchers suspect that the carbon release may have been a result of an initial rise in temperature during the PETM and they wonder whether current warming, due to global climate change, could launch a similar event. Further, the PETM provides insights into the carbon cycle, climate system, and how living organisms respond to environmental change.
“Could our dependence on carbon-based energy sources trigger one or more causes of prehistoric global warming and, as a result, make our struggle with a warming earth far worse than currently predicted? ” asks Clyde.
Between July 13 and Aug. 11, 2011, the scientists will drill pairs of cores at three sites – Polecat Bench, Gilmore Hill, and Basin Substation – around the Bighorn Basin. In partnership with a professional drilling team, scientists will work around the clock for a week at each site; each core, says Clyde, could take three days to drill.
“The nature of these rocks makes them particularly hard to core,” he says, adding that because this type of scientific drilling has never been conducted on these kinds of deposits, the team will be pioneering some of this work.
Once collected, the cores will be shipped in refrigerated containers to the University of Bremen in Germany. Clyde and the team will visit that laboratory in January 2012 to continue studying the cores, measuring the isotopic signature of carbon residue in the rocks to determine the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere during hyperthermals.
Clyde is optimistic about the project’s ability to shed light on previous and potential global warming. “Hopefully, by looking at the past, we will better understand prospects for the long-term climate cycle that may or may not become our future.”
The research team is posting news and photos from the field on a Facebook page, . For more information on the project, go to http://earth.unh.edu/clyde/BBCP.shtml.
This research was funded by a $1.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation. In addition to Clyde, master’s students Abby D'Ambrosia and Jeremy Riedel and project manager Doug Schnurrenberger from UNH, and scientists from the following instutitions will participate: Universities of Michigan, Colorado, Wyoming, Birmingham (U.K.), and Bremen (Germany); Columbia, Northwestern, Pennsylvania State, Purdue, and Utrecht (Netherlands) universities; the Smithsonian Institution; Bureau of Land Management; Denver Museum of Nature and Science; ExxonMobil; LacCore; NIOZ (Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research); and South Dakota School of Mines & Technology.
The University of New Hampshire, founded in 1866, is a world-class public research university with the feel of a New England liberal arts college. A land, sea, and space-grant university, UNH is the state's flagship public institution, enrolling 12,200 undergraduate and 2,300 graduate students.
| Newswise Science News
Climate change weakens Walker circulation
20.10.2017 | MARUM - Zentrum für Marine Umweltwissenschaften an der Universität Bremen
Shallow soils promote savannas in South America
20.10.2017 | Senckenberg Forschungsinstitut und Naturmuseen
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...
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....
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...
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...
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...
17.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
20.10.2017 | Information Technology
20.10.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.10.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research