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Antarctic fossils and rapid climate change

The PCC Summer Institute is coming, and the grad students who are attending are busy reading and discussing papers related to this summer's theme: "How Does Ocean Circulation Matter for Climate Change?"

I found an article today that I'd love to read -- "An abrupt wind shift in western Europe at the onset of the Younger Dryas cold period" -- if only Nature hadn't created a new journal ("Geoscience") and placed it there. This is a problem because my library doesn't have a subscription, so I can only read the abstract and not the article. Ah, Nature -- once again forcing people who are already subscribers to pay more.

And then I found this in the National Science Foundation's daily digest:

National Science Foundation-funded scientists working in an ice-free region of Antarctica have discovered the last traces of tundra--in the form of fossilized plants and insects--on the interior of the southernmost continent before temperatures began a relentless drop millions of years ago.

An abrupt and dramatic climate cooling of 8 degrees Celsius, over a relatively brief period of geological time roughly 14 million years ago, forced the extinction of tundra plants and insects and tranformed the interior of Antarctica into a perpetual deep-freeze from which it has never emerged.


Part of the study in the Dry Valleys is captured in the documentary "Ice People," by Emmy-award winning director Anne Aghion. NSF's Antarctic Artists and Writers program supported Aghion in the field for four months in 2006 to document the work of scientists there. The film is being released to coincide with the International Polar Year 2007-2009 (IPY), a global scientific deployment, and is scheduled to air on the Sundance Channel in 2009.

OK, so there is some good stuff to be found on TV.

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November 2009


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