Earth’s History in a Cave

"Tunnel-Vision-Larry-Edwards"Source: Smithsonian
Source: Smithsonian

J. Madeleine Nash writes in the Smithsonian, “An underground scientist is pioneering a new way to learn what the climate was like thousands of years ago.”  Larry Edwards, a geochemist from the University of Minnesota has undertaken the study of stalagmites.  Nash writes:

“To Edwards, a stalagmite is more than a chunk of geology that looks like a modern sculpture: It’s a collection of climate sensors, rather like tree rings but extending often hundreds of thousands of years back in time. Perhaps the only other earthly archives that have provided such a high-resolution portrait of the past half-million years are ice cores.”

Edwards has done comparative studies from different continents that show a similar climate timeline:

“In a landmark study, Edwards and his collaborators compared the precipitation swings captured by Hulu Cave on the outskirts of Nanjing, China, with temperatures encoded by Greenland’s ice. Plotted as graphs, and positioned side by side, the dips and valleys in both records are sharp and—for the 60,000-year period covered by the stalagmites—synchronous.”


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