Friday, June 16, 2017

Volcanoes under the ice: melting Antarctic ice could fight climate change

Iron is not commonly famous for its role as a micronutrient for tiny organisms dwelling in the cold waters of polar oceans. But iron feeds plankton, which in turn hold carbon dioxide in their bodies. When they die, the creatures sink to the bottom of the sea, safely storing that carbon.

Furious winds keep the McMurdo Dry Valleys in Anarctica
 free of snow and ice. Calcites found in the valleys have revealed
 the secrets of ancient subglacial volcanoes.
How exactly the iron gets to the Southern Ocean is hotly debated, but we do know that during the last ice age huge amounts of carbon were stored at the bottom of the Southern Ocean

Understanding how carbon comes to be stored in the depth of the oceans could help abate CO2 in the atmosphere, and Antarctica has a powerful role.

Icebergs and atmospheric dust are believed to have been the major sources of this micronutrient in the past. However, in research published in Nature Communications, my colleagues and I examined calcite crusts from Antarctica, and found that volcanoes under its glaciers were vital in delivering iron to the ocean during the last ice age.

Read the piece on The Conversation by Associate Professor from the School of Environmental and Life Sciences  at the University of Newcastle, Silvia Frisia  - “Volcanoes under the ice: melting Antarctic ice could fight climate change.”

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