Monday, August 3, 2020

Researchers say cooling 13,000 years ago is coincident with major volcanic eruption

Contact: Terry Goodrich, Baylor University Media and Public Relations, 254-644-4155

WACO, Texas (July 31, 2020) – Texas researchers from the University of Houston, Baylor University and Texas A&M University have discovered evidence for why the earth cooled dramatically 13,000 years ago, dropping temperatures by about 3 degrees Centigrade.

The evidence is buried in a Central Texas cave, where horizons of sediment have preserved unique geochemical signatures from ancient volcanic eruptions — signatures previously mistaken for extraterrestrial impacts, researchers say.

The resolution to this case of mistaken identity recently was reported in the journal Science Advances.

“This work shows that the geochemical signature associated with the cooling event is not unique but occurred four times between 9,000 and 15,000 years ago,” said Alan Brandon, Ph.D., professor of geosciences at University of Houston. “Thus, the trigger for this cooling event didn’t come from space. Prior geochemical evidence for a large meteor exploding in the atmosphere instead reflects a period of major volcanic eruptions.”

After a volcano erupts, the global spread of aerosols reflects incoming solar radiation away from Earth and may lead to global cooling post eruption for one to five years, depending on the size and timescales of the eruption.

The study indicates that the episode of cooling, scientifically known as the Younger Dryas, was caused by numerous coincident Earth-based processes, not an extraterrestrial impact.

“The Younger Dryas, which occurred about 13,000 years ago, disrupted distinct warming at the end of the last ice age,” said co-author Steven Forman, Ph.D., professor of geosciences at Baylor University.

The Earth’s climate may have been at a tipping point at the Younger Dryas, possibly from the ice sheet discharge into the North Atlantic Ocean, enhanced snow cover and powerful volcanic eruptions that may have in combination led to intense Northern Hemisphere cooling, Forman said.

“This period of rapid cooling is associated with the extinction of a number of species, including mammoths and mastodons, and coincides with the appearance of early human occupants of the Clovis tradition,” said co-author Michael Waters, Ph.D., director of the Center for the First Americans at Texas A&M University.

University of Houston scientists Brandon and doctoral candidate Nan Sun, lead author, accomplished the isotopic analysis of sediments collected from Hall’s Cave in the Texas Hill Country. The analysis focused on difficult measurements at the parts per trillion on osmium and levels of highly siderophile elements, which include rare elements like iridium, ruthenium, platinum, palladium and rhenium. The researchers determined the elements in the Texas sediments were not present in the correct relative proportions to have been added by a meteor or asteroid that impacted Earth.

That meant the cooling could not have been caused by an extraterrestrial impact. It had to have been something happening on Earth. But what?

“The signature from the osmium isotope analysis and the relative proportion of the elements matched that previously reported in volcanic gases,” Sun said.

Kenneth Befus, Ph.D., volcanologist at Baylor University, added that “these signatures were likely the result of major eruptions across the Northern Hemisphere, including volcanoes in the Aleutians, Cascades and even Europe.”

“I was skeptical. We took every avenue we could to come up with an alternative explanation, or even avoid, this conclusion,” Brandon said. “A volcanic eruption had been considered one possible explanation but was generally dismissed because there was no associated geochemical fingerprint.”

A volcanic cause for the Younger Dryas is a new, exciting idea, he said. Whether a single major eruption of a volcano could drive the cooling observed, however, is still an open question, the researchers said.

Volcanic eruptions cause their most severe cooling near the source, usually in the year of the eruption, with substantially less cooling in the years after the eruption. The Younger Dryas cooling lasted about 1,200 years, so a sole volcanic eruptive cause is an important initiating factor, but other Earth system changes, such as cooling of the oceans and more snow cover were needed to sustain this colder period, Forman said.

This research underscores that extreme climate variability since the last ice age is attributed to unique Earth-bound drivers rather than extraterrestrial mechanisms. Such insights are important guidance for building better models of past and future climate change.


Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 18,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 90 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.


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Sunday, August 2, 2020

Siberia’s ‘gateway to the underworld’ grows as record heat wave thaws permafrost

Song of dying permafrost. Picture: Alexander Gabyshev

By Richard Stone

On a spring day in 2019, Alexander Kizyakov rappelled down the 60-meter headwall of the Batagay megaslump in eastern Siberia, pausing to chisel out chunks of ice-rich soil that had been frozen for eons. “One of my hobbies is rock climbing,” says Kizyakov, a permafrost scientist at Lomonosov Moscow State University. Colleagues below sampled the most ancient soil along the base of the cliff. Such work is too dangerous in summertime, when the constant crackling of melting ice is punctuated by groans as slabs of permafrost, some as big as cars, shear off the headwall.

Known to locals as the “gateway to the underworld,” Batagay is the largest thaw slump on the planet. Once just a gully on a slope logged in the 1960s, the scar has expanded year by year, as the permafrost thaws and meltwater carries off the sediment. Now more than 900 meters wide, it epitomizes the vulnerability of permafrost in the Arctic, where temperatures have shot up twice as fast as the global average over the past 30 years.

But it is also a time capsule that is seducing scientists with its snapshots of ancient climates and ecosystems. “It’s a mind-blowing place,” says Thomas Opel, a paleoclimatologist at the Alfred Wegener Institute. Dates from ice and soil gathered at Batagay show it holds the oldest exposed permafrost in Eurasia, spanning the past 650,000 years, Opel and colleagues reported in May at the European Geosciences Union’s online general assembly. That record could reveal how permafrost and surface vegetation responded to past warm climates. “It gives us a window into times when permafrost was stable, and times when it was eroding,” Opel says.

Global warming is inflicting wounds across Siberia. Outbursts of pent-up methane gas in thawing permafrost have pocked Russia’s desolate Yamal and Gydan peninsulas with holes tens of meters across. Apartment buildings are listing and collapsing on the unsteady ground, causing about $2 billion of damage per year to the Russian economy. Forest fires during the past three summers have torched millions of hectares across Siberia, blanketing the land with dark soot and charcoal that absorb heat and accelerate melting.

Intensifying this year’s fires was a heat wave that baked Siberia for the first half of 2020. On 20 June, the town of Verkhoyansk, just 75 kilometers from Batagay and one of the coldest inhabited places on Earth, reached 38°C, the hottest temperature ever recorded in the Arctic. The record-breaking heat “would have been effectively impossible without human-induced climate change,” said the authors of a 15 July study by World Weather Attribution, a collaboration of meteorologists who analyze the possible influence of climate change on extreme weather events.

An abiding question is how much carbon the thawing soil will release to the atmosphere, and whether the lusher growth of Arctic plants in the warming climate will absorb enough carbon to offset the release. The Arctic may already have reached a tipping point: Based on observations at 100 field sites, northern permafrost released on average about 600 million tons more carbon than vegetation absorbed each year from 2003 to 2017, scientists estimated in October 2019.

Scientists are venturing to Batagay in annual campaigns to learn what it can say on the matter. Visits, organized by the Institute of Applied Ecology of the North in Yakutsk, are not for the faint of heart. In 2014, Kseniia Ashastina slogged through 3 kilometers of mosquito-infested forest to reach the headwall’s edge. “You hear a lot of cracking noises as you get closer, and all of a sudden there are no trees and you’re standing on an overhang,” says Ashastina, a paleobotanist at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. She and colleagues from the Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum lodged with Indigenous Siberians—Evens and Sakha—some of whom fear the megaslump. “They say it’s eating their land, swallowing up the trees and their sacred places,” she says.

To learn the age of the exposed permafrost, Opel’s team relies on luminescence dating, which reveals the last time minerals in the soil saw daylight, and a new Russian technique for dating chlorine in the ice. The dates allow them to match soil layers to the known climate record, while abundances of two isotopes trapped in ice wedges, oxygen-18 and deuterium, are proxies for local temperatures. Assaying Batagay’s soil composition should yield insights into how much carbon the permafrost sequestered over the millennia.

The permafrost also holds glimpses of ancient Arctic ecosystems. Sampling trapped plant remains, the team learned that during the last ice age, when winter temperatures plunged even lower than in modern times, the vegetation was surprisingly lush, supporting woolly mammoths, woolly rhinos, and other now-vanished herbivores in a meadow steppe ecosystem. “It was a paradise for the foraging animals,” Ashastina says.

Sometimes, the remains of these lost creatures tumble out of the headwall in exquisite condition. In 2018, scientists recovered a young ginger-colored Lena horse (Equus lenensis), an extinct relative of the Yakutian horse, with intact soft tissue. Scientists hope to find a live cell so they can attempt to clone the 42,000-year-old foal. Some of its preserved muscle is particularly promising, says P. Olof Olsson, a molecular biologist with the Abu Dhabi Biotech Research Foundation, which is teaming up on the effort with North-Eastern Federal University in Yakutsk. “I’m skeptically optimistic,” Olsson says. “At least, it’s not impossible.”

As the elements carve up more of the Batagay megaslump, it could transport scientists deeper into time. Glaciers scour away soil as they advance, but they largely bypassed Siberia during recent ice ages, leaving the permafrost in some areas hundreds of meters thick. For decades, as the hot summers liquefied its ice-rich soil, Batagay’s headwall advanced about 10 meters per year, says Frank Guenther, a permafrost researcher at the University of Potsdam. Since 2016, he says, that rate has surged to 12 to 14 meters per year. It’s harder to peg how fast the slump is deepening, and thus how much farther back in time the thaw is penetrating. The most ancient permafrost ever dated, from Canada’s Yukon territory, is 740,000 years old. As much as climate watchers may cringe at the thought, several more roasting Siberian summers could push the Batagay megaslump to claim another record.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019


Goal of the PALEOMAP Project

The goal of the PALEOMAP Project is to illustrate the plate tectonic development of the ocean basins and continents, as well as the changing distribution of land and sea during the past 1100 million years.
In the Earth History section of this website are full-color paleogeographic maps showing the ancient mountain ranges and shorelines, active plate boundaries, and the extent of paleoclimatic belts.
NEW  App for iPad/iPhone, "Ancient Earth: Breakup of Pangea".  A Scalable, Rotatable, and Completely Interactive PaleoGlobe Animation. Download from the App Store or visit our website, (, or search for "ancient earth" at the (App Store)
3D movable Paleoglobes.  Interactive 3D virtual object - globes that you and manipulate, rotate, and view from many angles.  Times available:  Modern Globe, Miocene (20 Ma), K/T boundary (65 Ma), Late Cretaceous (80 Ma), Early Cretaceous (120 Ma), Earliest Cretaceous (140 Ma), Pangea - earliest Jurassic (200 Ma), early Permian (280 Ma).
3D Paleogeographic AnimationsA sample of the new 3D topographic and bathymetric models that can be visualized as stunning 3D globes.  3D Animations of the Latest CretaceousCretaceous, Early Permian. and the Middle Devonian.
In the Climate History section is a discussion of how and why the Earth's climate has changed through time.
Future Maps showing positions of continents in the future and formation of "Pangea Ultima"
Paleo-Globes (4" diameter spheres)  Make your own Paleoglobe ! and ESH-GIS 1.0 (ArcView), the first Earth History Geographic Information System. 
In the Methods section, find out how these paleogeographic maps were made, what the scientific basis for the maps are, and what software was used to produce the maps.
The Atlas has been 30 years in the making.  In the  History of the Atlas section describes the who, when, what and where that went into producing the Paleogeographic Atlas. A  list of Key References is also provided.
License Information  If you would like to use PALEOMAP images or 3D digital models give us a call  (888 288 0160) or email  us at cscotese ( at )

His Dark Materials' Most Confusing Plot Points Explained

Multiple worlds, armoured bears, dust, daemons. BBC and HBO’s His Dark Materials can be pretty confusing. We’re here to open up the alethiometer and answer a few of your biggest questions about what the crap is going on.

This week is the halfway point of His Dark Materials’ first season, with Lyra (Dafne Keen) finally meeting aeronaut Lee Scoresby (Lin-Manuel Miranda) and Iorek Byrnison, one of the armoured bears of the north. And there will be a lot more to unpack as the season continues. Who is Will? Why are the children being kidnapped? What’s the deal with multiple worlds? What is Lyra’s destiny?

But hopefully, we can shine a little bit of light into this dusty, strange darkness. Let me know in the comments if you have any additional questions and I’ll do my best to answer them...provided they don’t spoil too much for everybody else. Let’s crack open the alethiometer and begin!

1. The Magisterium

The main antagonist of the series, the Magisterium is the governing force that “keeps order” in Lyra’s world. You may have noticed their garments, which are quite clerical. That’s because author Philip Pullman modelled the Magisterium after the Catholic Church—something that was notably missing from the 2007 movie The Golden Compass, as the threat of a boycott from Christians led the studio to remove religious themes altogether.
The Magisterium works in service of the Authority, which is their term for God. We don’t really see them performing many charitable acts or community service. They rarely even hold church service. Instead, they’re focused on keeping order and censoring things they consider to be blasphemous. In that way it’s not a criticism of faith, but rather of control.

2. Dust

The Magisterium is obsessed with three things: order, control, and Dust. The first two make sense, but the last one might seem strange. In the world of His Dark Materials, Dust—with a capital D—is a mysterious substance that connects all intelligent life in the universe and beyond. Folks like Lord Asriel (James McAvoy) and Mrs. Coulter (Ruth Wilson) are obsessed with finding out Dust’s true purpose, albeit for very different reasons.
Dust is attracted to people—specifically adults, not children. It tends to bounce off kids. This is why the Magisterium believes that Dust is actually a manifestation of Original Sin, otherwise known as the moment in the Bible where Adam and Eve ate fruit from the Tree of Knowledge and were cast out of the Garden of Eden. In the Magisterium’s mind, it’s evidence that something changes when innocence becomes experience. What it actually is—well, we wouldn’t want to give that away just yet.

3. Daemons

Dust has something to do with daemons (dæmons in the books), which are an integral part of Lyra’s world. A daemon is a physical embodiment of a person’s soul, manifested as an animal. It represents your dual nature, your instincts, and your conscience. In our world, we sometimes have inner monologues or gut feelings. People in Lyra’s world have talking animal sidekicks.
Daemons change shape at will for children, because their personalities are always growing and changing. But upon puberty, they settle into one form, representing a core aspect of your personality. The bond between a human and their daemon is sacred. Hurting one will affect the other, and when a person dies their daemon disappears into Dust (hint hint). Seeing someone without a daemon would be like seeing a person walking around without a head. It just doesn’t happen.

4. Armoured Bears

Then, there are the bears. Yes, there are talking bears in this show. The bears of Svalbard (which is actually a real place) have a kingdom in the north, where they tend to keep to themselves—occasionally trading with outsiders. They don’t have daemons, but they do have their armour, which is crafted out of sky-iron, a rare metal. Bears consider their armour to be like their souls…or daemons. A bear without their armour is missing their soul, their prized possession. At the time we meet him in the series, Iorek Byrnison has been cast out of the kingdom for betraying his fellow bears, leaving the kingdom in the control of another.

5. The Alethiometer

As of now in the show, there’s a lot we don’t know about the alethiometer yet...and we don’t want to give any of the big reveals away. But in the simplest of terms, it’s a compass-like device, based on the real-world astrolabe, that can read the truth in any situation. Normally it requires years of study, but Lyra is strangely able to master it pretty quickly. You ask the alethiometer a question and something (or someone) provides an honest, truthful answer. Only six were ever made, and the Magisterium yearns to have them all. So long as Lyra has one of the alethiometers, total control is out of their reach.

His Dark Materials streams on Foxtel.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Mysteries of pristine Kimberley wilderness are being unravelled at last

Horizontal Falls demonstrates the extreme tides of the Kimberley.

The natural mysteries of the Kimberley, one of Australia's last pristine habitats, have been documented like never before thanks to a multi-million-dollar project.

More than 200 scientists worked over five years in collaboration with local Indigenous groups to conduct what was one of the largest marine science studies undertaken in Australia.

Kelly Waples from the WA Marine Science Institution said it had given researchers an unprecedented understanding of the region's signature reefs and wildlife, including whales, dugong and saltwater crocodiles.

Climate change a threat

With the onset of climate change and increasing levels of human activity, Dr Waples said gaining a better understanding of the Kimberley's extreme ecosystem was vital for its protection.

Isolated for thousands of years from large human populations, the Kimberley's rugged coastline and high tidal movements have allowed plant and animal species seen nowhere else to flourish.

"The way the ecosystem is set up is a bit different to other places, and we need to understand that to be able to manage the area for the future," Dr Waples said.

Research breaks ground

Researchers from 25 organisations were tasked with cataloguing the unique biodiversity and determine how it survived and co-existed in such a harsh environment.

Saltwater crocodile populations were found to be on the rebound, with a 256 per cent increase in numbers in the past 30 years.

High-priority nesting areas for marine turtles, which are being significantly affected by warming sea temperatures, were identified along the coastline.

Surveys of the sea floor found almost 2,200 species including sponges, molluscs and crustaceans.

Whale researchers now know more about the mammals' distribution throughout the Kimberley coast, including the role of Camden Sound as a major calving area for humpbacks.

Ground-breaking data also suggested that calving areas might extend along the Dampier Peninsula, a popular tourist destination north of Broome.

New species of coral were documented for the first time, as scientists tracked the recovery of reef systems from widespread bleaching linked to climate change.

Meanwhile, more evidence of elusive Australian snubfin dolphin and humpback dolphin populations were also documented in isolated areas.

Collaboration key

Working with Indigenous people was an essential part of the project that, Dr Waples said, helped to employ local knowledge and foster skills among remote community residents.

"One of the best lessons I've learned from the Kimberley is to recognise Indigenous knowledge, to recognise there was a lot of value in that," she said.

Fossils of giant new species of sea creature found on South Australia's Kangaroo Island

The fossils of a giant new species of sea creature have been found on Kangaroo Island, with experts saying it was likely the "terror" of other creatures on the seafloor.

Researchers said the discovery of a group of sea creatures called trilobites added insights to knowledge of the Cambrian explosion, the greatest diversification event in the history of life on Earth.

The fossils, called Redlichia rex, were the largest Cambrian trilobite to be discovered in Australia.
Trilobites, which had hard, calcified, armour-like skeletons over their bodies, were related to modern crustaceans and insects.

They were one of the most successful fossil animal groups, surviving for about 270 million years.
The new species was discovered at Emu Bay on Kangaroo Island, where more than 100 other species were discovered, including some with soft parts intact.

"We decided to name this new species of trilobite Redlichia rex — similar to Tyrannosaurus rex — because of its giant size, as well as its formidable legs with spines used for crushing and shredding food, which may have been other trilobites," University of Adelaide PhD student James Holmes said.

The findings were published in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology by a team of scientists from the University of Adelaide, South Australian Museum and the University of New England led by Mr Holmes.

A giant of the ancient ocean

Redlichia rex is the largest Cambrian trilobite found in Australia, growing to about 30 centimetres long — or twice the length of other trilobites of about the same age.

"Interestingly, trilobite specimens from the Emu Bay Shale — including Redlichia rex — exhibit injuries that were caused by shell-crushing predators," said senior study author Associate Professor Diego Garcia-Bellido, from the University of Adelaide and the South Australian Museum.

"There are also large specimens of fossilised poo — or coprolites — containing trilobite fragments in this fossil deposit."

Mr Holmes said one of the major drivers of the Cambrian explosion was likely an evolutionary "arms race" between predators and prey.

"The overall size and crushing legs of Redlichia rex are a likely consequence of the arms race that occurred at this time," Mr Holmes said.

Specimens of Redlichia rex and other Emu Bay Shale fossils are on display in the South Australian Museum.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

15 major ancient Celtic gods and goddesses you should know about

15 Major Ancient Celtic Gods And Goddesses You Should Know About

When it comes to the all the way from the Iberian peninsula (Spain and Portugal) and Ireland to the frontiers of Liguria in Italy and the upper Danube. Suffice it to say, their mythology rather mirrored this multifarious scope, with various tribes, chiefdoms, and even later kingdoms having their own set of folklore and pantheons.