Climatology, Volcanism, and Microbial Life in Ice with Downhole Loggers
This award supports a project to use three downhole instruments - an optical logger; a
miniaturized biospectral logger at 420 nm (miniBSL-420); and an Acoustic TeleViewer (ATV) - to log a 350-m borehole at the WAIS Divide drill site. In addition, miniBSL-224 (at 224 nm) and miniBSL-420 will scan ice core sections at NICL to look for abrupt climate changes, volcanic ash, microbial concentrations, and correlations among them. Using the optical logger and ATV to log bubble number densities vs depth in a WAIS Divide borehole, we will detect annual layers, from which we can establish the age vs depth relation to the bottom of the borehole that will be available during the three-year grant period. With the same instruments we will search for long-period modulation of bubble and dust concentrations in order to provide definitive evidence for or against an effect of long-period variability of the sun or solar wind on climate. We will detect and accurately date ash layers in a WAIS Divide borehole. We will match them with ash layers that we previously detected in the Siple Dome borehole, and also match them with sulfate and ash layers found by others at Vostok, Dome Fuji, Dome C, and GISP2. The expected new data will allow us to extend our recent study which showed that the Antarctic record of volcanism correlates with abrupt climate change at a 95% to >99.8% significance level and that the volcanic signatures at bipolar locations match at better than 3 sigma during the interval 2 to 45 kiloyears. The results to be obtained during this grant period will position us to extend an accurate age vs depth relation and volcano-climate correlations to earlier than 150 kiloyears ago in the future WAIS Divide borehole to be drilled to bedrock. Using the miniBSLs to identify biomolecules via their fluorescence, we will log a 350-m borehole at WAIS Divide, and we will scan selected lengths of ice core at NICL. Among the biomolecules the miniBSLs can identify will be chlorophyll, which will provide the first map of aerobic microbes in ice, and F420, which will provide the first map of methanogens in ice. We will collaborate with others in relating results from WAIS Divide and NICL ice cores to broader topics in climatology, volcanology, and microbial ecology. We will continue to give broad training to undergraduate and graduate students, to attract underrepresented minorities to science, engineering, and math, and to educate the press and college teachers. A deeper understanding of the causes of abrupt climate change, including a causal relationship with strong volcanic eruptions, can enable us to understand and mitigate adverse effects on climate.
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