Friday, May 4, 2007

Final Project = Antarctica + ?

I have a final project to finish before Tuesday for my Paleooceanography class. Paleoceanography is the study of the ocean’s past. This subject encompasses everything from ocean temperature to circulation to primary production to chemistry. It’s a pretty cool subject, if you like the oceans.

The instructor gave us an assignment that is broad and meandering, which totally blows, but I think I've got an idea that will win him over. Let's discuss it, shall we?

More and more studies are coming out saying that warming around Antarctica happened BEFORE the rise in carbon dioxide after the last glacial (in your face, Al Gore!). If this were the case, we should be able to use tracers of sea-ice coverage around Antarctica to get a time frame of when all this warming happened and compare it to the rise in atmospheric CO2. Antarctica was covered with even more ice than it is now during the last glacial. This ice extended way up north of the actual continent and into the South Seas.

If you cap off the ocean around Antarctica with sea-ice, like during a glacial, you screw with the ocean’s ability to exchange gases with the atmosphere. Gases like carbon dioxide. As we come out of the glacial, the world starts to warm and this sea ice will start to melt. We would like to know the timing of the melting of this ice and compare it to the timing of the increase in atmospheric CO2. One way to tell the timing of this melting is that as the sea-ice melted, it dumped a lot of crap onto the seafloor. Crap that includes the tests of specific diatoms. These diatoms are WAY different than the regular diatoms that live in the salt water. If you can get a sediment core, look at how much of these sea-ice diatoms are present at any given time AND when they disappear, you should be able to make some fantastic claim about the presence of ice around Antarctica. Ta-Da!

Sidenote! Doesn't Antarctica look like a smiling rhinocerous? Now you'll never forget how to draw this, our most neglected continent.

Cornfused? Me too. But somehow or another I’ve gotta sort this out before Tuesday. I'm so fucked.

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