Saturday, December 1, 2012

Natural climate gauge

Among the many stalactites and stalagmites at Oregon Caves National Park (pictured) is one which
Vasile Ersek of Oxford University and his colleagues found to be the converse of tree rings regarding climate. Whereas dendochronology offers evidence about summers, when plants are growing, the stalagmite allowed the scientists to assess ancient winters for the past 13,000 years. That's when the formation began, with the region's damp winters causing water from the ground to seep through the cave's ceiling and trickle onto the floor. The stalactite stopped growing prior to the Industrial Revolution, so the stalagmite does not show the influence of human activities on the climate. But Ersek et al. write in Nature Communications what can be gleaned from this natural record-keeper:  "Getting a long-term perspective on these sorts of natural climate variations may help us to understand the potential for future loss of winter snow cover along the West Coast, as well as what's happening out in the Pacific to influence other cyclical climate events such as El Niño."
Climate change:

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