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Antarctic: ‘No role’ for climate in Halley iceberg splitting

Scientists Jan De Rydt and Hilmar Gudmundsson have spent years studying the area and say the calving will be the result of natural processes only. The Antarctic station, which sits on a floating platform of ice, was moved in 2017 to get it away from a large chasm. That crack is now expected to dump a berg the size of Greater London into the Weddell Sea. It’s not clear precisely when this will happen, but the breakaway looks imminent, prompting the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) to withdraw its staff from Halley as a precaution. As soon as the calving does occur, though, it can be guaranteed that one of the first questions everyone will ask is: what was the influence of climate change? And the Northumbria University team believes it will be able to answer with high confidence: “There was none.” Jan De Rydt and Hilmar Gudmundsson have built a model to describe the behaviour of the floating ice platform, which is known as the Brunt Ice Shelf. Read more.

New study shows how past Arctic sea ice loss was linked to abrupt climate warming

A new study on Greenland ice cores shows that Arctic sea ice loss in the period 30-100,000 years ago was associated with major oscillations in high latitude climate. During this period, Greenland temperatures repeatedly increased by up to 16°C in less than a century, followed by more gradual cooling. The results are published today (Monday 11 February) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The team, led by Dr Louise Sime from the British Antarctic Survey, includes Dr Rachael Rhodes an ice core scientist who recently joined CAPE at Northumbria. Dr Rhodes explains what the study involved:

“We studied data from ice cores drilled in Greenland, focusing on records of oxygen isotopes that are the poster-child example of abrupt climate change. We compared these records to output from sophisticated climate models able to simulate how the oxygen isotopic mix of the ice changes with climate and sea ice conditions.”

From this Dr Rhodes and the team determined that rapid, extensive sea retreat was a hugely important control on the oxygen isotope signals. This is a significant result because the abrupt climate warmings, called Dansgaard-Oeschger events after the two scientists who first discovered them, are some of the fastest and largest abrupt climate changes ever recorded. Now that we better understand how sea ice loss is imprinted on Greenland ice cores, we move closer to deciphering between competing theories about what actually triggered these remarkable climate events.

Even though Dansgaard-Oeschger events occurred in an ice age when the Arctic was much colder than it is today, Dr Rhodes says it is critical to learn about the climate impacts of past Arctic sea ice loss given that Arctic sea ice extent is currently decreasing in our warming world.

Impact of abrupt sea ice loss on Greenland water isotopes during the last glacial period by Louise C. Sime, Peter O. Hopcroft, Rachael H. Rhodes is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences here.

Is there a link between climate change and the collapse of the world’s first empire?

Gol-e-Zard Cave lies in the shadow of Mount Damavand, which at more than 5,000 metres dominates the landscape of northern Iran. In this cave, stalagmites and stalactites are growing slowly over millennia and preserve in them clues about past climate events. Changes in stalagmite chemistry from this cave have now linked the collapse of the Akkadian Empire to climate changes more than 4,000 years ago.

Akkadia was the world’s first empire. It was established in Mesopotamia around 4,300 years ago after its ruler, Sargon of Akkad, united a series of independent city states. Akkadian influence spanned along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers from what is now southern Iraq, through to Syria and Turkey. The north-south extent of the empire meant that it covered regions with different climates, ranging from fertile lands in the north which were highly dependent on rainfall (one of Asia’s “bread baskets”), to the irrigation-fed alluvial plains to the south. Read more.

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