Blog posts

21 July, 2013 – Vulnerability of the large East Antarctic Ice Sheet to rising temperatures

 Background: Concentrations of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide have surpassed a level of 400pm in May 2013, a concentration that has not been observed in the earth’s atmosphere for a long, long time. To find similarly high concentrations, we have to go beyond times scales that we, or our ancestors, can directly study and observe. Instead we have to use the geological past and go all the way back to a time called the Pliocene epoch (2.6-5.3 million years ago). The Pliocene is the most recent time in the geological past when atmospheric carbon dioxide levels were similar to today. We can hence use it as a natural laboratory to study mechanisms and consequences of climate change.

2 August, 2012 – Antarctica was very warm indeed some 52 million years ago …

It is just a bit more than two years since I made my last post here, and since we had the sampling party to take the material from our fantastic expedition back home.

Today, the first major scientific results of our endeavour were published in the journal Nature. The team led by Jorg Pross, which included myself and my graduate student Claire Huck, found amazing evidence from spores and pollen in the very old cores we recovered. These cores reached back to the early Eocene, a time which is often described as part of the ‘Greenhouse world’. Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations were a lot higher back then, probably similar to what we would get when burning all our fossil fuels.

5 July, 2010 – Sampling Party!

Finally the long time without my ship mates was over …

From 15 June to 25 June many of the shipboard participants from IODP expedition 318 met again in College Station, Texas, to bring the first stage of our science mission to conclusion, and make a start to the second stage. The first stage of course was the seagoing part, which you all could follow through the blogs. As I mentioned in my blogs, part of the job when sailing as a scientist in the Integrated Ocean Drilling Programme is to write a lot of reports. Every time we finished drilling at a new site in the ocean, a full report had to be written up, describing the operational side of things, but also the sediments we found, what ages they had, and what their physical properties and geochemical composition was.

4 June, 2010 – Documentary on our Antarctic expedition

It is now nearly 3 month ago that we came back from our expedition to drill the Antarctic continental margin. In a few weeks many of the expedition participants will travel to the core repository in College Station (Texas, USA) to unpack the cores, we saw the last time three months ago, and take the samples for all our science projects. Then the real work begins !!!

Just in time for this exciting next phase of IODP expedition 318, the documentary about our expedition got completed. Enjoy !!!

26 March, 2010 – Wilkes Land video report VII – the end!

It is now two weeks since I arrived back in the UK from IODP expedition 318 Wilkes Land – time to summarize our findings and bring this blog to a close.

During our two months expedition we drilled at seven sites close to, and on the Antarctic Wilkes Land continental shelf, at water depth ranging between 400 and 4000m. Despite severe weather and ice (berg) conditions, we managed to drill 3200m of sediments beneath the Antarctic sea floor, with an average core recovery of 53%. Together, the cores represent ~53 million years of Antarctic climate history. They tell the tale of an ice-free, warm greenhouse world, the first cooling around Antarctica, the onset and erosional consequences of the first Antarctic glaciers, and the subsequent dynamics of the waxing and waning Antarctic ice sheet, all the way to the thick, unprecedented ‘tree ring style’ records with seasonal resolution of the last deglaciation that began some 10,000 years ago.

12 March, 2010 – Ocean man video

And here it comes – the ‘ocean man’ video featuring the ‘ocean man band’ with curator Chad Broyles, organic geochemist James Bendle, and the green guy (???). The partying crowd is made up by Expedition 318 participants (scientists, IODP staff, …). We had a really good time out at sea, and arrived on 8 March safe in the port of Hobart. I will post a summary of our expedition achievements as well as the final video episode in the next couple of weeks. All I need now is a few days of sleep …

3 March, 2010 – Wilkes Land video report VI

It is officially done – the last core came on deck, the last samples were taken, and the last reports are now being written. Yesterday night we started our transit back to Hobart (Tasmania), where we will arrive next week. Everybody is tired, but happy about a tremendously successful expedition. We really deserve our beers in Hobart!

Enjoy below part six of the weekly video updates produced by Dan Brinkhuis (Zcene Moving Media Company). This week features paleontologist Catherine Stickley from the University of Trømso, Norway. The penguin TV actually took place in the chemistry lab !!!

A last weekly video will be finalized when we are back onshore, featuring the co-chief scientists.

26 February, 2010 – ‘Core is on the floor’ …

‘Core is on the floor’ is the what we hear through the intercom system on the ship, every time when a new piece of sediment floor comes up from the seafloor. What happens after the announcement is a highly streamlined sequence of steps. First the IODP technicians go out on the catwalk (see picture), where they put the core on racks, label it, and cut it in pieces.

From there it goes inside the ship and is left alone for some hours to equilibrate. Then it gets put through a series of so-called track systems, where the physical properties of the sediment are measured.

18 February, 2010 – Drilling on the Antarctic shelf

Below you can see a picture of our ship track on the Antarctic shelf over the past few days. The curly line is the result of quite difficult ice conditions with huge icebergs and some sea ice in the area where our targeted drill sites are. Earlier this week we had to sit out a storm, caused by a significant low pressure system going through the area. This was done away from the shelf, where there is only very little ice, making it a safer place to be in rough seas. On Tuesday we started the journey back to the continental shelf, to drill some more material that tells us about the transition from the Greenhouse world into the icehouse world.