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Climate Proxies How can you measure the climate of the past?

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Presentation on theme: "Climate Proxies How can you measure the climate of the past?"— Presentation transcript:

1 Climate Proxies How can you measure the climate of the past?

2 Learner outcomes At the end of this lecture you should be able to 1.Describe how proxies differ from observations 2.Describe how tree rings, corals, fossils, lake ice and lake duration are used to estimate local climate 3.Describe how ocean sediment and ice cores are used to estimate global climate 4.The difference between stable and radiometric isotopes and what type of information they tell use about past climates

3 Proxies Unlike instrumental records that tell us only about the most recent century, proxy records (natural archives of climate change) enable us to place recent climatic change in the context of the last several hundred to thousand years.

4 Temperature (Northern Hemisphere) CO 2 Concentrations 1000 Years of CO 2 and Global Warming

5 How do we develop proxies? Assumptions Observations of phenomenon today Link current observations to past records

6 Assumptions Observation: Solar radiation varies but overall decreases Therefore solar radiation in the past was higher

7 Proxies Corals* Tree rings* Pollen* Fossils* Sea level Lake ice duration* Ocean sediments Ice Cores * indicative more of local climate change than global climate change

8 Corals Shells made of Calcium Carbonate (CaCO 3 ) Shell in equilibrium with the ocean water Band width provided evidence of temperature the coral grew in Growth rates change with ocean temperatures, pH levels Local climate

9 Why should we hug trees? Dendrochronology is the study of the annual variability of tree ring widths, which can be extended back to 8000 years ago. The study of trees provides climate information regarding temperature, runoff, precipitation, and soil moisture. Local climate Date of last ring is year tree was cut

10 Tree Rings Growth conditions recorded in rings Wide ring-warm days sufficient water Narrow-cold days/drought

11 What can plant and animal fossils tell us about ancient climates? Certain plants and animals live only in specific environments, so their presence is a clue to local climate. These 350 Ma fossil ferns were most likely the oldest on land, and likely required high pCO 2 levels. A trilobite, the three- lobed king of warm, shallow Cambrian seas Soft-bodied Waptia, an arthropod from the Cambrian Burgess Shale

12 Source: Wisconsin State Climatology Office

13 Examples of Climate Proxies PollenLake Ice Duration Tree RingsLake Ice Thickness Ice Cores

14 Global Proxies Sea level Ocean sediment Ice cores –Layers (varves) in ice cores –Gases in ice cores –Stable Isotopes: O-16 to O-18 ratio in ice cores –Radiometric Isotopes:Carbon dating of sediment in the ice cores or glacial deposits

15 Sea Level Glaciation –low sea level

16 Ocean Sediment Cores: 3-3.5km Thick levels of sedimentation can indicate heavy weathering, warmer temperatures Volcanic sediments Loss of sediment layers through erosion 55 mya

17 Frozen Core Some cores go 3 km deep!

18 Vostok, Antarctica 78°28' S, 106°48'E: Coldest Places on Earth Vostok Station Nationality: Russia Location: Vostok - an outpost if there ever was one - is located near the South Geomagnetic Pole, at the center of the East Antarctic ice sheet, where the flux in the earth's electromagnetic field is manifested. The coldest recorded temperature on Earth, °F (- 89.2°C) was measured here on July 21, Ice core drilling 3.4 km to go ½ million years into past climate

19 Ice Cores: Varves A varve is an annual layer of sediment or sedimentary rocksediment sedimentary rock

20 Section of Greenland Cores Dozen Ice Ages going back 1 billion years

21 How can ancient greenhouse gases be trapped? Atmospheric gases (CO 2, CH 4, SO 2, etc.) can be trapped in glaciers as frozen water metamorphoses from snow to firn to recrystallized ice. The record of atmosphere CO 2 since the Industrial Revolution During the Last Glacial Maximum pCO 2 is estimated at 180 ppm

22 Ice Core Thermometer

23 Isotopes Stable Isotopes-temperature Radiometric dating-rate and date

24 How can oxygen isotopes used as paleoclimate proxies? isotope -- atoms of the same element with the same atomic number (chemical properties) but differing atomic weight (physical properties). Differ in number of neutrons. Oxygen is composed mostly of 16 O and 18 O, which as part of water molecules are separated by physical processes. A typical carbon atom with 6 protons and 6 neutrons and 6 electrons.

25 Fractionation To divide or separate into parts Ocean water is made up of both O-16 and O-18 There is a standard or average ratio of O-18 to O-16 (standard mean ocean water as the baseline, SMOW) Certain physical and biological processes change the ratio (this is fractionation)

26 Oxygen Isotopic Ratios or Amounts O 18 /O 16 ratio in glacial ice indicate the atmosphere temperature in which the snow that made up the ice formed Extent of isotopic difference (fractionation) is dependent on the temperature. So they form a temperature proxy!

27 Oxygen Isotopic Ratios vs. Amounts O 18 /O 16 ratio versus O-18 and O-16 Usually described as a ratio

28 Oxygen Fractionation Summary If ratio O-18 to O-16 is higher than expected in the ocean, colder temperatures If ratio O-18 to O-16 is lower than expected in the ocean, warmer temperatures

29 Oxygen Isotopes in Glacier Ice Polar ice is preferentially enriched with O- 16 relative to the ocean (O-16 locked in glacier ice). So especially during glaciation ocean water is heavy Why is glacier ice light? –The water source is from precipitation which is preferentially light. So during a glaciation you would expect remaining ocean water to be heavy

30 Radiometric Isotopes Isotopes that decay (Carbon) can tell us the approximate date of an event or the rate at which an event took place –Glacial retreat

31 Carbon Dating: Rate of Glacial Retreat

32 Greenland Ice Sheet and Arctic: Northern Hemisphere

33 Antarctica: South Pole


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