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Boost for climate research at Bristol University

Press release issued: 25 June 2002

Media release
Boost for climate research at Bristol University

An international team, led by scientists at the University of Bristol, hopes to provide vital information on natural climate changes that will put global warming into its proper context. Using novel methods of estimating past carbon dioxide levels, they will try to pin down the timing and extent of carbon dioxide changes that have occurred over the last 150 million years. This will help them to better understand how current rates of change compare with those in the past.

More than £250,000 has been awarded to fund the research, which will include six weeks of drilling in Tanzania this summer to get samples of mudrocks that are noted for their excellent microfossils. The work will take place in Tanzania because it is one of the few places in the world where ancient seafloor sediments are sufficiently well preserved for the new techniques to be applied.

One of the new techniques relies on determining the acidity of the ancient oceans from the chemistry of the microfossils that were deposited on the sea floor. The microfossils are the remains of plankton - tiny marine organisms - that continuously rain down onto the sea bed. Analysis of the fossil plankton will reveal how much carbon dioxide - an acidic gas - from the atmosphere was mixed with the seawater. The second method requires analysing the composition of organic compounds formed by marine algae deposited at the same time.

Nobody has tried to analyse such ancient rocks in this kind of detail before and nobody has previously applied the two techniques simultaneously on the same samples.

Dr Paul Pearson and Dr Tim Elliott from the Earth Sciences Department at the University of Bristol have joined forces with Dr Rich Pancost from the Chemistry Department. They will work closely with Tanzanian government scientists who will be collaborating in the research and who plan to visit the University's laboratories as part of the project.

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Copyright: 2001 The University of Bristol, UK
Updated: Tuesday, 25-Jun-2002 10:01:01 BST

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