“There is clear evidence of climate change here,” Werner said via email from Svalbard. “The Linne´ Glacier has been retreating since 1936 at an average rate of 20 meters per year. Since 2002, that rate has increased twofold, to nearly 40 meters per year. Now, we’re seeing the return of warm-water-loving mollusks. These results are consistent with other Arctic regions that likewise show accelerated warming in the past two decades.”
It’s an alarming trend that the REU is monitoring in the Norwegian High Arctic. The project’s ultimate goals are to monitor the area’s glacier/river/lake system, and to provide a better understanding of natural (pre-industrial) climate change there.
The Svalbard research is just one part of the much larger REU program, funded by the National Science Foundation, that aims to attract undergraduates to scientific fields by immersing them in field research experiences. In this way, Werner says, his REU project is mainly about educating and, hopefully, inspiring tomorrow’s climate change scientists.
This summer, he led seven U.S. students and three from the local Norwegian university, UNIS, on the five-week Svalbard trip. While the overall goal was to provide a better understanding of past climate change in the High Arctic, Werner and Hampshire faculty member Steve Roof worked with each of the students, helping them collect data for their individual honors thesis work.
The team was based at Isfjord Radio, an old communications outpost that has been turned into an eco-tourism station. The distance to the research site varied each day depending on what data was needed—one day, for example, project members hiked for nearly 12 straight hours to the top of the Linne´ Glacier and didn’t arrive back at home base until 11 pm.
“Most days involve lots of hiking with a heavy pack, and it is almost always rainy and cold,” Werner said. “Still, it is a lot of fun and incredibly rewarding--and what a privilege to work with the next generation of climate change scientists!”
The experience has been a role reversal of sorts for Werner, who did his dissertation fieldwork in the Norwegian High Arctic in the 1980s. Twenty years later, in 2002, he began the REU project there, in Svalbard’s Linne´ Valley, which is home to a small glacier, a meltwater river system, and a proglacial lake. Core samples taken from the lake, Werner said, are beautifully layered.
“Think of tree rings,” he explained. “These annual layers reflect glacier and climate variation through time. In a sense, we have this system (glacier-river-lake) instrumented like a critically ill patient, so that we can see the effects of annual snowfall, rainfall, summer air temperature, and glacier mass balance on lake sedimentation.”
The prognosis is not good. If the Linne´ Glacier continues to retreat at it’s current rate, Werner said, it will disappear in a matter of decades. That makes the Svalbard REU’s mission of developing scientists who will be able to research past and future climate change all the more important.
While ominous, present conditions, said Werner, make it an exciting time to conduct research in the Arctic. “By loading the atmosphere with greenhouse gasses we are conducting an incredible experiment with the climate system and we are able to watch it play out in real time."
Max Pearlstein | Newswise Science News
In times of climate change: What a lake’s colour can tell about its condition
21.09.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)
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21.09.2017 | Helmholtz-Zentrum Potsdam - Deutsches GeoForschungsZentrum GFZ
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
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Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
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