By Claire

Today, I wanted to share a series of snippets of new research that have emerged recently in the field of climate science. These stories have been all neatly compiled by DISCCRS in a weekly mail-out, which I recommend you go and subscribe to!

East Antarctic Ice Sheet Vulnerable to melt

Ancient sediments recovered off the coast of East Antarctica suggest that the ice sheet repeatedly melted back 3 to 5 million years ago, contributing to sea level rise
Ancient sediments recovered off the coast of East Antarctica suggest that the ice sheet repeatedly melted back 3 to 5 million years ago, contributing to sea level rise.

A new study published in Nature Geoscience has shown that in the past, the East Antarctic Ice Sheet has melted in response to warmer temperatures.

During the Pliocene, when global temperatures were 2 – 3 ºC warmer than present, the East Antarctic Ice Sheet retreated by as much as several hundred km inland. This new research is important, since it reveals that the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, which has been thought of as largely stable, does respond to changes in global temperature.

The Pliocene, 5.33–2.58 million years ago, represents a warm period in Earth’s climate history, where CO2 concentrations were around 400ppm. This period is often used as an analogue for future climate change, due to the similar CO2 concentrations between then and now. During the Pliocene, global temperatures were 2 – 3 ºC warmer, and sea level was around 25m higher than present.

Scientists drilled a sediment core off the coast of Adélie Land in East Antarctica, and analysed mud found within the core that was sourced from rocks currently found under the ice sheet. They concluded that  the only way so much mud could have been carried off to sea is if the ice sheet had retreated inland, eroding those rocks.

“Our study underlines that these conditions have led to a large loss of ice and significant rises in global sea level in the past,” said study coauthor Tina Van De Flierdt, a scientist at Imperial College London. “Scientists predict that global temperatures of a similar level may be reached by the end of this century, so it is very important for us to understand what the possible consequences might be.”

Read the full press release here, or the article in Nature Geoscience here.

Beavers doing their bit to sequester carbon

BeaverDamApart from being ridiculously cute, it turns out the Beavers are actually helping to sequester carbon, doing their bit to help mitigate climate change.

When Beavers build dams across rivers, they divert water out of the river and on to surrounding flood plains. In doing this, they create wetlands, known as “beaver meadows”, containing large amounts of sediments and organic material.

New research using previously published data has estimated that these dried up beaver meadows account for as much as 8% of the total carbon storage within the local ecosystem, and as much as 23% when the wetland was actively maintained. 

Hug me!
Hug me!

Unfortunately, a decline in the number of beavers has meant that these wetlands have largely been abandoned, reducing the total amount of carbon stored in these areas. 

Read the press release here, or the article in Geophysical Research Letters

More Climate Stories!

In case you still haven’t gotten your fill of climate stories this week, here is a run down of some others…

Climate change slowdown is due to warming of deep oceans, say scientists – The Guardian – July 22, 2013 – http://goo.gl/Tlpvs

NSF-Funded Research Sheds New Light on How Surface Water Lubricates the Bottom of the Greenland Ice Sheet – NSF Press Release 13-129 – July 17, 2013 – http://goo.gl/ZhpkB7

New study finds “nighttime heat waves” increasing in Pacific Northwest – Oregon State University Press Release – July 22, 2013 – http://goo.gl/vQWkuu

Scientists discover new variability in iron supply to the oceans with climate implications – National Oceanography Centre Southampton Press Release (via AAAS EurekAlert) – July 19, 2013 – http://goo.gl/3DGbD

Arctic’s Boreal Forests Burning at ‘Unprecedented’ Rate – Climate Central – July 22, 2013 – http://goo.gl/VjL49I

Current efforts will not save the world’s most endangered cat – University of Copenhagen Press Release (via AAAS EurekAlert) – July 21, 2013 – http://goo.gl/2KVLPh

Geology Matters When it Comes to Storing Carbon – Climate Central – July 17, 2013 – http://goo.gl/cZN9t

Thirsty clean energy may add to water stressed world – New Scientist – July 19, 2013 – http://goo.gl/m0ReO

Brazil’s indigenous groups take reins of green projects – Thomson Reuters Foundation – July 17, 2013 – http://goo.gl/RgJir1

Volta River Basin needs new water strategy – study – Thomson Reuters Foundation – July 22, 2013 – http://goo.gl/UP4rr

In Rapidly Changing Arctic, U.S. Playing Game of Catch-Up – Climate Central – July 21, 2013 – http://goo.gl/b3ahV

After Wildfire Tragedy, Talk of Global Warming’s Contribution Is a Delicate Matter – InsideClimate News – July 18, 2013 – http://goo.gl/MKCbB

U.S. Farmers View Climate Change as Just Another Weather Challenge – Scientific American – July 16, 2013 – http://goo.gl/VWwfB