Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Stalagmites - Time Capsules of Climate Change

As the Earth's climate continues to shift bringing drought to some areas and record snowfall to others, scientists are constantly searching for new ways to monitor and model the data.

So, you can imagine the excitement generated when cave stalagmites in Borneo (video) were sampled and found to mirror some large climatic events, but not others. Located just north of the equator in the Pacific, the region is a big climate player. By sampling the stalagmite's historical record, scientists can obtain previously unknown data that may offer hints to puzzling climate questions. 

“To my knowledge, this is the first record that so clearly shows sensitivity to one set of major abrupt climate change events and not another,” explains Kim Cobb, an associate professor in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology. 

Rock strata (layers) like those seem in the Grand Canyon have been studied by geologists for a long time, but these new stalagmite records have the added benefit of limited or no erosion. They also provide information on the water minerals present during past climate shifts.