Cool Cores Capture Climate Change

Jean Pennycook: Penguin Science,
Louise Huffman: ANDRILL,
Josh Reed: ANDRILL,
Ellen Cowan:
Diane Winter:
Betsy Youngman:, contributor

Published: September 2010. Last Updated: April 2017.


Sediment cores from under the Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctica. Notice how different they are. Each one tells a part of Earth's climate change history. Source: ANDRILL.

Earth has experienced cycles of climate change throughout its geologic history. The record of these cycles can be found in layers of oceanic sediments. Changes in temperature, pH, and the presence or absence of ice cover determine the types and numbers of microorganisms that can live in our oceans. When these oceanic organisms die, they settle to the ocean floor. Sediments carried from land by rivers, winds, and ocean currents are also deposited on the ocean floor. These deposits of microorganisms and sediment form layers over time. The layers provide evidence of changes in Earth's climate. Scientists who want to understand Earth's past history drill into the seafloor to collect samples of these layers. The samples they recover are called sediment cores.

In this chapter, you will learn how various climatic conditions impact the formations of sediment layers on the ocean floor. You will view an interactive animation of ice-shelf advance and retreat and sediment rates. You will download and use specialized scientific software, Paleontological Stratigraphic Interval Construction and Analysis Tool (PSICAT), to create graphic models of sediment cores based on data provided by ANtarctic geological DRILLing (ANDRILL) scientists. Your core drawings will demonstrate your understanding of evidence of climate change over Earth's geologic time.

This chapter is part of the Earth Exploration Toolbook. Each chapter provides teachers and/or students with direct practice for using scientific tools to analyze Earth science data. Students should begin on the Case Study page.

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