Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Deep In Arctic Mud, Geologists Find Strong Evidence Of Climate Change

Date:
January 20, 2007
Source:
University at Buffalo
Summary:
How severe will global warming get? Jason P. Briner is looking for an answer buried deep in mud dozens of feet below the surface of lakes in the frigid Canadian Arctic. His group is gathering the first quantitative temperature data over the last millennium from areas in extreme northeastern sections of the Canadian Arctic, such as Baffin Island.

Members of Jason Briner's geology team use a coring system to sample Arctic mud on Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic in an effort to gauge global warming.
Credit: Image courtesy of University at Buffalo

How severe will global warming get? Jason P. Briner is looking for an answer buried deep in mud dozens of feet below the surface of lakes in the frigid Canadian Arctic.

His group is gathering the first quantitative temperature data over the last millennium from areas in extreme northeastern sections of the Canadian Arctic, such as Baffin Island.

Every spring, Briner, Ph.D., assistant professor of geology in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University at Buffalo, travels to the region to sample Arctic lake sediments and glaciers and analyzes them to reconstruct past climates.

"As paleoclimatologists, we want to study Earth under conditions similar to those we have today, what we call 'climate analogues,' which might tell us what to expect in the future," he said.

The Arctic as a region is an excellent harbinger of future change, Briner said, because the signals or clues that signify climate change are so much stronger in the Arctic than elsewhere on the planet.

"Yet, even when we take that phenomenon into account," he noted, "the signals we're finding on Baffin Island are huge," he said. "The temperature records, that is, the 'signal' of warmth that we're reconstructing for this part of the Canadian Arctic over the past 10,000 years seems to be higher than the global average for that period and even higher than the Arctic average."

For example, during the 'Holocene thermal maximum,' the warmest period of the past 10,000 years, the Arctic average temperature was two to three degrees warmer than it is today, while the global average was only a degree or so warmer.

"But based on lake sediments from Baffin Island, our data show that this area of the Arctic experienced temperatures five degrees warmer than today," said Briner.

Briner and his co-authors published these results last May in Quaternary Research (Vol. 65, pp. 431-442). The co-authors were N. Michelutti, formerly of the University of Alberta; D.R. Francis of the University of Massachusetts; G.H. Miller of the University of Colorado; Yarrow Axford, Briner's post-doctoral research associate at UB; M.J. Wooller of the University of Alaska, Fairbanks; and A.P. Wolfe of the University of Alberta.

Because Arctic regions show such strong seasonality, Briner explained, it's relatively easy to correlate climate changes with very fine layers in the sediments. In some lakes, each layer represents one year, with thicker sediment layers generally signaling warmer summers.

Like other paleoclimatologists, he also is finding that the warming trend that began in the 20th century is more pronounced in the Arctic than it is in the rest of the globe.

"The magnitude of warmth over the past 100 years seems pretty exceptional in the context of the past 1,000 years," he said.

"Whereas maybe an average of all of the instrument data from the globe shows just a half a degree increase in this century, in the Arctic, temperatures went up by two to three degrees in the same period."

The rapidity of the change also is exceptional, he added.

"If we look at the temperature graphs that we've generated for the past 1,000 years for this region, the temperatures wiggle back and forth, so there is a little variability in there," he said. "However, in the past 100 years, both the magnitude and the rate of temperature increase exceed all the variations of the past 1,000 years."

To do the research, Briner and his graduate students and post-doctoral associates travel to Baffin Island and other areas in extreme northeast Canada each May, while it is still winter there.

They fly to remote Eskimo villages, and then drive snowmobiles, dragging their gear behind them on sleds, for hours across the tundra and sea ice. Once they reach a good sampling site, they set up camp nearby and get to work, drilling through the ice and the water below until their equipment reaches sediments.

"The beauty of lake sediments is that they're being deposited continuously right up until yesterday," Briner said, "so by looking at them, we get clues into past climates, which we can then overlap with records from weather stations, which only cover the past 50 to 75 years."

They then send their samples -- long tubes full of mud -- back to UB, where Briner and his team analyze them.

Among the clues in the cores are isotopes, fossils and increases in organic material from the accumulation of dead organisms and algae.

"Generally, the more organic matter in sediments, the warmer the climate," said Briner.

A primary goal of the research is to account for spatial variability when reconstructing past climate records.

"Everyone knows the climate is extremely variable, spatially," said Briner. "For example, earlier this year, Colorado got slammed with snow and Buffalo didn't get a flake. It's the same when we reconstruct past climates: maybe the climate cooled by 30 degrees in Greenland but only 10 degrees in the area that's now Buffalo."

Reconstructing this spatial variability will help develop a more precise view of how past changes in climate have affected the planet, Briner says, providing a guide for how the current global warming trend may unfold.

"We can use these patterns to test climate models," said Briner. "Once models can adequately predict past climates and their spatial patterns, then we have confidence that they work and so can be used to predict the future."

Briner and members of his team will present some of their data May 2-5 at the 37th Annual International Arctic Workshop in Iceland.

The research is funded by the National Science Foundation.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, the largest and most comprehensive campus in the State University of New York.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University at Buffalo. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University at Buffalo. "Deep In Arctic Mud, Geologists Find Strong Evidence Of Climate Change." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 January 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/01/070118181253.htm>.
University at Buffalo. (2007, January 20). Deep In Arctic Mud, Geologists Find Strong Evidence Of Climate Change. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/01/070118181253.htm
University at Buffalo. "Deep In Arctic Mud, Geologists Find Strong Evidence Of Climate Change." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/01/070118181253.htm (accessed April 24, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

UN Joint Mission Starts Removing Landmines in Cyprus

UN Joint Mission Starts Removing Landmines in Cyprus

AFP (Apr. 23, 2014) — The UN mission in Cyprus (UNFICYP) led a mine clearance demonstration on Wednesday in the UN-controlled buffer zone where demining operations are being conducted near the Cypriot village of Mammari. Duration: 01:00 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
California Drought Is Good News for Gold Prospectors

California Drought Is Good News for Gold Prospectors

AFP (Apr. 22, 2014) — For months California has suffered from a historic drought. The lack of water is worrying for farmers and ranchers, but for gold diggers it’s a stroke of good fortune. With water levels low, normally inaccessible areas are exposed. Duration: 01:57 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: MN Lakes Still Frozen Before Fishing Opener

Raw: MN Lakes Still Frozen Before Fishing Opener

AP (Apr. 22, 2014) — With only three weeks until Minnesota's fishing opener, many are wondering if the ice will be gone. Some of the Northland lakes are still covered by up to three feet of ice, causing concern that just like last year, the lakes won't be ready. (April 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Warn Of Likely El Niño Event This Year

Scientists Warn Of Likely El Niño Event This Year

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) — With Pacific ocean water already showing signs of warming, the NOAA says there's about a 66 percent chance the event will begin before November. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins