Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

UNH Research Brings New Understanding to Past Global Warming Events

03.04.2012
A series of global warming events called hyperthermals that occurred more than 50 million years ago had a similar origin to a much larger hyperthermal of the period, the Pelaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), new research has found.

The findings, published in Nature Geoscience online on April 1, 2012, represent a breakthrough in understanding the major “burp” of carbon, equivalent to burning the entire reservoir of fossil fuels on Earth, that occurred during the PETM.

“As geologists, it unnerves us that we don’t know where this huge amount of carbon released in the PETM comes from,” says Will Clyde, associate professor of Earth sciences at the University of New Hampshire and a co-author on the paper. “This is the first breakthrough we’ve had in a long time. It gives us a new understanding of the PETM.” The work confirms that the PETM was not a unique event – the result, perhaps, of a meteorite strike – but a natural part of the Earth’s carbon cycle.

Working in the Bighorn Basin region of Wyoming, a 100-mile-wide area with a semi-arid climate and stratified rocks that make it ideal for studying the PETM, Clyde and lead author Hemmo Abels of Utrecht University in the Netherlands found the first evidence of the smaller hyperthermal events on land. Previously, the only evidence of such events were from marine records.

“By finding these smaller hyperthermal events in continental records, it secures their status as global events, not just an ocean process. It means they are atmospheric events,” Clyde says.

Their findings confirm that, like the smaller hyperthermals of the era that released carbon into the atmosphere, the release of carbon in the PETM had a similar origin. In addition, the warming-to-carbon release of the PETM and the other hyperthermals are similarly scaled, which the authors interpret as an indication of a similar mechanism of carbon release during all hyperthermals, including the PETM.

“It points toward the fact that we’re dealing with the same source of carbon,” Clyde says.

Working in two areas of the Bighorn Basin just east of Yellowstone National Park – Gilmore Hill and Upper Deer Creek – Clyde and Abels sampled rock and soil to measure carbon isotope records. They then compared these continental recordings of carbon release to equivalent marine records already in existence.

During the PETM, temperatures rose between five and seven degrees Celsius in approximately 10,000 years -- “a geological instant,” Clyde calls it. This rise in temperature coincided exactly with a massive global change in mammals, as land bridges opened up connecting the continents. Prior to the PETM, North America had no primates, ancient horses, or split-hoofed mammals like deer or cows.

Scientists look to the PETM for clues about the current warming of the Earth, although Clyde cautions that “the Earth 50 million years ago was very different than it is today, so it’s not a perfect analog.” While scientists still don’t fully understand the causes of these hyperthermal events, “they seem to be triggered by warming,” Clyde says. It’s possible, he says, that less dramatic warming events destabilized these large amounts of carbon, releasing them into the atmosphere where they, in turn, warmed the Earth even more.

“This work indicates that there is some part of the carbon cycle that we don’t understand, and it could accentuate global warming,” Clyde says.

The article, “Terrestrial carbon isotope excursions and biotic change during Palaeogene hyperthermals,” was published online in Nature Geoscience (www.nature.com/naturegeoscience). In addition to Clyde and Abels, co-authors were Philip Gingerich from the University of Michigan, Frederik Hilgen and Lucas Lourens from Utrecht University, Henry Fricke from Colorado College, and Gabriel Bowen from Purdue University. Clyde received funding for this work from the National Science Foundation.

Read more about Clyde’s research at Bighorn Basin here: http://www.unh.edu/news/cj_nr/2011/jul/bp11basin.cfm.

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.

Photographs available to download:
www.unh.edu/news/cj_nr/2012/mar/bp27basin.jpg
Caption: Will Clyde, associate professor of Earth sciences at the University of New Hampshire, holds a sediment core from the Gilmore Hill area in the Bighorn Basin of Wyoming where he and other coauthors discovered geological records of global warming events that occurred more than 50 million years ago.

Credit: Kate Freeman

www.ceps.unh.edu/images/Dig1.jpg
Caption: The Bighorn Basin area of Wyoming, University of New Hampshire professor Will Clyde and colleagues found new evidence leading to a greater understanding of the Pelaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), a major warming that occurred more than 50 million years ago. Credit: Thomas Westerhold
www.ceps.unh.edu/images/Dig2_original.jpg
Caption: These geological deposits make the Bighorn Basin area of Wyoming ideal for studying the PETM. Credit: Aaron Diefendorf

Beth Potier | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.unh.edu

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Groundwater protection on Spiekeroog Island - first installation of a salt water monitoring system
01.07.2020 | Leibniz-Institut für Angewandte Geophysik (LIAG)

nachricht How Volcanoes Explode in the Deep Sea
30.06.2020 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: ILA Goes Digital – Automation & Production Technology for Adaptable Aircraft Production

Live event – July 1, 2020 - 11:00 to 11:45 (CET)
"Automation in Aerospace Industry @ Fraunhofer IFAM"

The Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials IFAM l Stade is presenting its forward-looking R&D portfolio for the first time at...

Im Focus: AI monitoring of laser welding processes - X-ray vision and eavesdropping ensure quality

With an X-ray experiment at the European Synchrotron ESRF in Grenoble (France), Empa researchers were able to demonstrate how well their real-time acoustic monitoring of laser weld seams works. With almost 90 percent reliability, they detected the formation of unwanted pores that impair the quality of weld seams. Thanks to a special evaluation method based on artificial intelligence (AI), the detection process is completed in just 70 milliseconds.

Laser welding is a process suitable for joining metals and thermoplastics. It has become particularly well established in highly automated production, for...

Im Focus: A structural light switch for magnetism

A research team from the Max Planck Institute for the Structure of Dynamics (MPSD) and the University of Oxford has managed to drive a prototypical antiferromagnet into a new magnetic state using terahertz frequency light. Their groundbreaking method produced an effect orders of magnitude larger than previously achieved, and on ultrafast time scales. The team’s work has just been published in Nature Physics.

Magnetic materials have been a mainstay in computing technology due to their ability to permanently store information in their magnetic state. Current...

Im Focus: Virtually Captured

Biomechanical analyses and computer simulations reveal the Venus flytrap snapping mechanisms

The Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) takes only 100 milliseconds to trap its prey. Once their leaves, which have been transformed into snap traps, have...

Im Focus: NASA observes large Saharan dust plume over Atlantic ocean

NASA-NOAA's Suomi NPP satellite observed a huge Saharan dust plume streaming over the North Atlantic Ocean, beginning on June 13. Satellite data showed the dust had spread over 2,000 miles.

At NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, Colin Seftor, an atmospheric scientist, created an animation of the dust and aerosols from the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Dresden Nexus Conference 2020: Same Time, Virtual Format, Registration Opened

19.05.2020 | Event News

Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium AWK'21 will take place on June 10 and 11, 2021

07.04.2020 | Event News

International Coral Reef Symposium in Bremen Postponed by a Year

06.04.2020 | Event News

 
Latest News

First exposed planetary core discovered

01.07.2020 | Physics and Astronomy

Energy-saving servers: Data storage 2.0

01.07.2020 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Laser takes pictures of electrons in crystals

01.07.2020 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>