Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

World's Oldest Cave Glacier Reveals 10,000 Years of Climate Data

Popular
C. Ciubotarescu

Deep inside the Apuseni Mountains you'll find the Scărișoara Ice Cave in Transylvania, the oldest cave glacier in the world. You'll also find some pretty incredible climate data from the last 10,000 years.


An international team of scientists from several institutions, including the University of South Florida, University of Belfast and Stockholm University, reconstructed winter climate conditions using ice cores from the cave that were indicative of the Holocene epoch. The Holocene was a period of more than 11,000 years from the present, but many climate scientists say we've moved into a new epoch, the Anthropocene, a geological period in which human activity profoundly shapes the environment.

The cave was an ideal place to study for winter conditions because it had precipitation data from the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea that seeped in and formed deposits in the ice over a course of 10,500 years—almost as long as the Holocene itself. Those deposits, which consist of tiny fragments of leaf and wood, provide information about the shifts in temperature and precipitation.

The "Great Hall" in the Scărișoara Ice Cave, where researchers extracted ice cores. A. Persoiu

Before this study, scientists had little to no information about holocene winters. Most climate data is pulled from warm months by analyzing tree rings, pollen and small organisms preserved in fossils.

"Most of the paleoclimate records from this region are plant-based, and track only the warm part of the year—the growing season," Candace Major, program director in NSF's Directorate for Geosciences, said in a release. "That misses half the story. The spectacular ice cave at Scărișoara fills a crucial piece of the puzzle of past climate change in recording what happens during winter."

Panoramic view of an ice cliff inside the Scărișoara Ice Cave, where the research was done. Gigi Fratila & Claudiu Szabo

Now, the scientists have a much more complete understanding of holocene climate. They learned that temperatures reached a maximum during the middle of the epoch about 7,000 to 5,000 years ago. During this period of warming, vegetation changed rapidly and neolithic people were able to migrate north toward Western Europe. Then, the temperature began to gradually decrease as the planet reached the Little Ice Age about 150 years ago.

"Our data allow us to reconstruct the interplay between Atlantic and Mediterranean sources of moisture," Bogdan Onac of USF said. "We can also draw conclusions about past atmospheric circulation patterns, with implications for future climate changes. Our research offers a long-term context to better understand these changes."

The team will continue to reconstruct the data and hopefully come up with a consistent climate map that can date back more than 13,000 years.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

An aerial view of a crude oil storage facility of Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) in the Krasnodar Territory. Vitaly Timkiv / TASS / Getty Images

Oil rigs around the world keep pulling crude oil out of the ground, but the global pandemic has sent shockwaves into the market. The supply is up, but demand has plummeted now that industry has ground to a halt, highways are empty, and airplanes are parked in hangars.

Read More Show Less
Examples (from left) of a lead pipe, a corroded steel pipe and a lead pipe treated with protective orthophosphate. U.S. EPA Region 5

Under an agreement negotiated by community groups — represented by NRDC and the Pennsylvania Utility Law Project — the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) will remove thousands of lead water pipes by 2026 in order to address the chronically high lead levels in the city's drinking water and protect residents' health.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
ROBYN BECK / AFP / Getty Images

By Dave Cooke

So, they finally went and did it — the Trump administration just finalized a rule to undo requirements on manufacturers to improve fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from new passenger cars and trucks. Even with the economy at the brink of a recession, they went forward with a policy they know is bad for consumers — their own analysis shows that American drivers are going to spend hundreds of dollars more in fuel as a result of this stupid policy — but they went ahead and did it anyway.

Read More Show Less

By Richard Connor

A blood test that screens for more than 50 types of cancer could help doctors treat patients at an earlier stage than previously possible, a new study shows. The method was used to screen for more than 50 types of cancer — including particularly deadly variants such as pancreatic, ovarian, bowel and brain.

Read More Show Less
Ian Sane / Flickr

Preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control showed a larger number of young people coming down with COVID-19 than first expected, with patients under the age of 45 comprising more than a third of all cases, and one in five of those patients requiring hospitalization. That also tends to be the group most likely to use e-cigarettes.

Read More Show Less