An international team of researchers from Russia, Germany, the USA and Austria has conducted a deep drilling programme in the utmost northeast of Russia during the last six months to retrieve several hundred metres of marine sediments, impact breccias and permanently frozen soil.
These make new insights into the climate history of the Arctic, crater formation of the Elgygytgyn Lake and permafrost dynamics possible. A milestone has been reached at the beginning of May with the first results of the drilling campaign. The cores gained will help to answer crucial open questions of Arctic geology.
At the utmost northern fringe of north-eastern Siberia, about 900 kilometres west of the Bering Strait and 100 km north of the Arctic Circle (67°30' N, 172°05' E), lies the Elgygytgyn Lake which originated 3.6 Mio years ago from a meteoride impact. The lake has, in contrast to other areas of this latitude, never been glaciated - the sediments which accumulated continually at the bottom of the lake are therefore an invaluable Arctic climate archive.
International researchers from various disciplines have set the goal to retrieve this archive. Preparations took eleven years before the large scale deep drilling campaign began at the end of the last year. Infrastructure for up to 40 people had to be created in this remote area under the most difficult conditions - accommodations, sanitary installations and supply utilities.
"Humans and technical appliances need sufficient energy in temperatures of down to -45°C, for instance for storing the drilling cores above freezing point", says Martin Melles from the University of Cologne, project manager of the Elgygytgyn Drilling Project on the side of the Germans. The drilling equipment employed for drillings in the sea weighs about 70 tons, a great challenge for its safe positioning on the sea ice.
At the end of the last year, permafrost drillings were performed by a Russian construction company from the 260 km distant Pevek. It yielded impressive results: the team reached a drilling depth of 142 metres despite heavy snowstorms and low temperatures. The cores contain information on the permafrost history and its influence on sea sedimentation. "It is possible to read sea level fluctuations from the cores", reports Georg Schwammborn from the Research Station Potsdam of the Alfred Wegener Institute who headed the permafrost drillings. Of great importance is the installation of a temperature measurement chain in the drilling hole by the researchers from Potsdam. It documents the current changes in the permafrost soil. Its understanding is of great value for climate research since the release of the gases bound in the thawing permafrost might further reinforce the greenhouse effect.
The sea drillings which have just been completed were no less successful: sea sediments were drilled 315 metres below the sea bottom; the upper 110 metres overlapped to close the remaining gap of the first drilling in the archive. First results indicate that the climate and environment history of the last 3.6 Mio years is largely documented. Measurements of the magnetic properties in the upper part of the sediment layers show numerous warm and glacial periods with different intensities and characteristics. "We can learn from detailed examinations of the transition from a glacial to a warm period that the Arctic reacted to global warming in the past; it is therefore safe to assume that it will also react to it in the future ", explains Catalina Gebhardt from the Alfred Wegener Institute in Bremerhaven. The deepest sea sediment cores reached into the Pliocene of 2.6 million years ago. "These sediments are of unique importance because the climate of this time was considerably warmer than it is today", says Martin Melles. "The insights gained from these sediments can serve as a perfect example for the Arctic in a few years time, in case the global warming takes place as prognosticated by climate models."
An important goal of the sea drilling was the drilling of the impact breccias. This clastic rock created by a meteorite impact was found 315 metres below the sea bottom. The cores drawn by drilling 200 metres into the breccias are invaluable. "We expect new insights not only about the trajectory and composition of the meteorite, but particularly about the reactions of the volcanic rocks to the impact", says Christian Koeberl from the University of Vienna, who coordinates the international team processing the impact rocks. The insights serve the risk assessments in areas with similar rock formations.
The 3.5 tons of cores drilled in 2009 will be brought to the Russian Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute (AARI) in St. Petersburg at the start of June. The cores of the whole drilling campaign will thereafter be brought to Germany: the permafrost cores to the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, the sea sediments to the University of Cologne and the impact breccias to the ICDP in Potsdam. The examinations will take two years. Altogether, about 30 guest researchers next to the German researchers and students will work on the cores.
You can find information of the project here: http://www.geologie.uni-koeln.de/elgygytgyn.htmlPartner research institutes:
The Alfred Wegener Institute carries out research in the Arctic and Antarctic as well as in the high and mid latitude oceans. The institute coordinates German polar research and provides international science with important infrastructure, e.g. the research icebreaker Polarstern and research stations in the Arctic and Antarctic. The Alfred Wegener Institute is one of 15 research centres within the Helmholtz Association, Germany's largest scientific organization.
GPM sees deadly tornadic storms moving through US Southeast
01.12.2016 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Cyclic change within magma reservoirs significantly affects the explosivity of volcanic eruptions
30.11.2016 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy