Drilling for climate change

January 16, 2012

Researchers aboard the drilling vessel JOIDES Resolution will finish their Mediterranean voyage next week to unearth thousands of centuries of climate data from beneath the ocean floor.

“The climate change recovered at one of the drill sites will be dedicated to providing the most complete marine record of over the past 2 million years of Earth’s history,” said UC Davis geophysicist Gary Acton, who was among a team of scientists to set sail from the Azores Islands on Nov 17.

The expedition — to understand the influence that warm water flowing out of the Mediterranean has on climate and the environment — will end Tuesday, Jan. 17, in Lisbon, Portugal.

The vessel is run by the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program and has the unique ability to core into the deepest reaches of the oceans and recover the sediments and rocks that contain Earth’s history. The IODP Expedition 339 is targeting thick sediment drifts that have accumulated from warm water flowing from the Mediterranean through the Strait of Gibraltar. In measurable ways, the sediments record subtle changes in environmental conditions.

“My goal is to reconstruct centennial-scale changes in climate and in Earth’s magnetic field for a time period spanning the past 400,000 years,” said Acton. “Only thick, rapidly deposited sedimentary units like those we are coring provide that ability. They are virtual prehistoric observatories.”

The research, conducted by 34 scientists from 13 nations, will provide a marine archive comparable with ice core records from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets and with land-based records from tree rings, cave stalactites and lake sediments.

Explore further: Ice and a slice of climate history

Related Stories

Ice and a slice of climate history

August 25, 2004

The first 40 million years of Arctic climate history was recovered from beneath the Arctic sea floor on Monday 23 August. After four days drilling in hazardous conditions the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program’s Arctic ...

Recommended for you

New study sheds light on end of Snowball Earth period

August 24, 2015

The second ice age during the Cryogenian period was not followed by the sudden and chaotic melting-back of the ice as previously thought, but ended with regular advances and retreats of the ice, according to research published ...

Earth's mineralogy unique in the cosmos

August 26, 2015

New research from a team led by Carnegie's Robert Hazen predicts that Earth has more than 1,500 undiscovered minerals and that the exact mineral diversity of our planet is unique and could not be duplicated anywhere in the ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.