Floating university expedition to unravel ocean bed secrets of rapid climate change

06/30/04

Researchers from Cardiff University have sailed into Cardiff Bay, returning from a major research expedition to to unravel the complex history of ice-ocean and climate change over the past 50,000 years.

The collaborative Sequencing Ocean-Ice Interaction Project (Sequoia) to the North East Atlantic has collected deep ocean sediment cores which will allow scientists to investigate the role of ocean circulation in past abrupt climate changes.

Led by Co-Chief scientists Dr. Ian Hall, School of Earth, Ocean and Planetary Science at Cardiff University and Dr. James Scourse, University of Wales, Bangor the expedition traveled aboard The RV Marion Dufresene. The ship is operated by the Institut Polaire Francais - Paul Emile Victor and is one of the world's largest and most advanced oceanographic research vessels, capable of recovering sediment cores up to 60 m long in water depths down to 5000 m. When she arrives in Cardiff The RV Marion Dufresene will be berthed within the ABP Port of Cardiff, Queen Alexandra Dock and this will be her first visit to a UK port.

Principal investigators from Cardiff University, University of Wales, Bangor, St. Andrews University, Cambridge University, The Natural History Museum and Barcelona University have also been joined by 35 students who have had the opportunity to study aboard the "Floating University". This is the first time UK students have been on the expedition.

Dr. Ian Hall said: "The Sequoia project aims to develop our understanding of the cause and the sequences of change involved in the many sudden and erratic swings in the climate that punctuated the coldness of the last Ice Age."

"Understanding the circulation of the global ocean is of major importance in our ability to predict and identify any human-induced global change and their consequences for our climate."

The expedition will reconstruct within 10 to 100 year time steps, the timing and geographic distribution of rock debris shedding by icebergs in the North East Atlantic in relation to changes in the Ocean Conveyor during the last Ice age.

The European Margin is an excellent setting to determine 'ice-ocean-climate' interaction, as rock debris from icebergs of both the Laurentide and British Ice Sheets were transported to the region. The small, rapidly-responding British Ice Sheet with its distinctive ice streams and outlets, was adjacent to the path of the Gulf Stream. Its dependency on the supply of moisture and heat from the Gulf Stream and its linking with the Ocean Conveyor thus makes it a particularly sensitive recorder of past climate changes and ocean-ice-climate interaction.

The seagoing expedition is part of a multi-institutional research programme funded by the UK Natural Environment Research Council.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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