URI oceanographer receives NSF grant to study long-term climate change in Ghana, Africa


The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded URI Graduate School of Oceanography (GSO) geological oceanographer Dr. John King $126,000 as part of a joint international scientific drilling project at Lake Bosumtwi, Ghana, Africa. The project will examine the climate history of the region through lake sediment analysis as well as evidence for meteorite impact cratering recorded in the rocks.

In addition to King, project collaborators include GSO alumnus Dr. John Peck, University of Akron; Dr. Johnathan Overpeck, University of Arizona; Dr. Christopher Scholz, Syracuse University; Dr. Philip Amoako, Ghana Geologic Survey; Dr. Christian Koeberl, University of Vienna; and Dr. Bernd Milkereit, University of Toronto. The collaborators have received a total of $1.8 million from government sources in their respective countries to conduct the research project.

"These funds are part of a nearly $700,000 investment by the NSF in drilling at Lake Bosumtwi," said David Verardo, Director of the NSF Paleoclimate Program that funded the research. "Bosumtwi is the latest of three international drilling projects in paleoclimatology spanning the tropics and is part of a wider strategy to address important climate questions from multiple perspectives." King will leave for Ghana in early July for a three-week period. Two GSO graduate students, Brad Hubeny and Chip Heil, both doctoral candidates in geological oceanography, will also participate in the research project in Ghana.

The objective of the project is to obtain long, continuous sediment drill cores from one of the world's most unique and scientifically valuable lakes. Because the sediments are layered annually, the scientists will be able to use the sediment core analysis to understand both the short- and long-term West African monsoon dynamics over the last one million years, including periods when climate conditions were know to be different from what they are today. In addition, they will compare their sediment analyses to other long paleoclimate records from the Atlantic, Mediterranean, and Indian Ocean regions to determine how the geography, the African climate, the monsoonal dynamics, and ocean circulation have impacted each other over time.

"Scientific drilling of Lake Bosumtwi is important," said King, "because the lake is uniquely situated and developed to provide much needed insights into the workings of Earth's climate system. In order to gain a greater insight into the role of the tropics in triggering, intensifying and propagating climate changes, additional high-resolution paleoclimate records from the tropics are needed. Recovery of long sediment records from Lake Bosumtwi offers the potential to examine tropical climate linkages over a variety of timescales."

Lake Bosumtwi occupies a meteorite impact crater that is more than one million years old, located in the forest lowlands of Ghana. Below 15 meters in depth the lake waters are permanently stratified and contain no oxygen, allowing for the preservation of layered sediments and the potential for high-resolution paleoclimatic reconstructions.

Once the cores are extracted from Lake Bosumtwi sediments, they will be shipped to the University of Rhode Island's core repository, located on the Narragansett Bay Campus, for storage and processing.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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