After making the precarious descent into the Charyn Canyon in Kazakhstan, scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz, Germany discovered a practically unbroken record of climate change in an 80-meter-thick layer of sediment.
This ancient slab of earth and rock provides scientists and researchers a “missing link” that will better their understanding of how land, atmosphere, and oceans have interacted over the last five million years.
The team from Mainz took a series of samples from the alternating layers of dust and soil, and then analyzed the samples to figure out how much moisture was present in the Earth throughout time. In this way, they were able to reconstruct a historic record of rainfall in the region — information that could help predict climate patterns in the future.
Paleo researcher Charlotte Prud’homme said, “Over the past five million years, the land surfaces of Eurasia appear to have more actively contributed to the land-atmosphere-ocean water-cycle than previously acknowledged.”
This is an incredibly valuable discovery that will make the challenging task of comprehending the formation of past and present climate patterns easier and will give us more confidence in forecasting what the future holds as well.
The EU is now in the process of constructing a “digital twin” of Earth that would simulate the atmosphere, oceans, ice, and land. The discovery of this organic climate record hidden in the sediment will help them make more accurate long-term predictions.
Currently, most of the research on how Earth’s weather systems have changed focuses on oceans, lakes, and ice caps. This is one of the first opportunities scientists have to thoroughly explore how climate has evolved in a landlocked region like Central Asia, and what role these weather systems have on the global climate.
The researchers are focusing most of their investigation on the Pliocene and Pleistocene periods, especially because the Pliocene period, which took place between five to 2.6 million years ago, was the last time concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere were comparable to what they are now.