Seafloor fossils to reconstruct Earth's climates up to 250 million years ago

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Washington, November 8 (ANI): In a research lasting two decades, a scientist has studied ancient, deep-sea fossils to reconstruct the climates of Earth up to 250 million years ago.

The scientist in question is Miriam Katz, assistant Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, US.

Through ice ages and greenhouse climates, Katz has been able to piece together oxygen, carbon, and faunal data to paint a portrait of how, when, and why our climate has changed so drastically over geologic history.

In addition, her investigations into the deep past of Earth have important implications for understanding and tracking the potential drastic repercussions of modern, human-induced climate change.

"There is a saying among scientists in my field that 'the past is a window on the future'," Katz said.

"By reconstructing the climates of the past, particularly those where we see massive and rapid changes in the climate, we can provide a science-based means to explore or predict possible system responses to the current climate change," she added.

Katz has spent nearly two years at sea on seven different ocean voyages around the world to drill for foraminifera as part of the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP), an international marine research effort that explores the Earth's history and structure by looking at seafloor sediments and rocks.

During each two-month IODP excursion, Katz and the other scientists on board spend hours poking through the millions of layers of sediment, trapped gases, fossils, and trace elements found in huge cores drilled from deep under the seafloor.

Just a few inches in diameter, each core is painstakingly drilled and removed from the seafloor. From top to bottom, the core provides a reverse chronology of the various organisms, sediments, and elements that were found on Earth throughout history.

These rarely disturbed ocean sediment cores can provide records up to 180 million years ago as new layers of sediment bury and preserve those of the past.

In her research, Katz developed important theories on one of the most recent and dramatic climate change events that have occurred in recent geologic history - the transition from the greenhouse climate of the Eocene epoch to the "icehouse" or glacial conditions of the Oligocene epoch approximately 33.5 million years ago.

"The boundary between the late Eocene to the early Oligocene is a striking example of rapid climate change that we can look to in Earth's past," Katz said.

"Information from this period can provide us with important information on how rapid changes in temperature can significantly impact ice volume, sea level, and the evolution of life on Earth," she added. (ANI)

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