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Durham University

Department of Geography

News Archive

Grant Success: Ocean Controls on high-latitude climate sensitivity - a Pliocene case study (OCCP)

(13 May 2013)

At the end of the 21st century Earth’s climate will be warmer, but understanding the patterns, magnitudes and drivers of the predicted changes is one of the biggest challenges remaining in climate science. In this project, a recent period of global warmth in the geological record, the Pliocene epoch (5.3-2.6 million years ago) will be investigated to give insight into how ocean circulation might change under warm climate conditions. The region of interest is the Nordic Seas, located to the north of Iceland. This region is climatically important because it is where Arctic and Atlantic waters meet and mix, and where deep water formation takes place. This project will take a multi-disciplinary approach: the remains of marine organisms preserved in sediment cores (both the organic remains and shells) will be analysed to reconstruct temperatures of the ocean waters at different depths, and to understand how ocean circulation was operating.

At Durham, Dr Erin McClymont will focus on reconstructing sea surface temperatures using the organic remains of marine algae. These data will be compared to climate model simulations for the same time period, which will allow investigation of the key processes potentially responsible for the observed trends. As a result, the over-arching aim of this project is to answer some outstanding questions about how and why the Nordic Seas could be sensitive to warmer global climates.

This research is funded by the Norwegian Research Council, and is led by Dr Bjorg Risebrobakken of the Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research (Bergen, Norway).