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17 April 2014 12:48 pm ,
Vol. 344 ,
Officials last week revealed that the U.S. contribution to ITER could cost $3.9 billion by 2034—roughly four times the...
An experimental hepatitis B drug that looked safe in animal trials tragically killed five of 15 patients in 1993. Now,...
Using the two high-quality genomes that exist for Neandertals and Denisovans, researchers find clues to gene activity...
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that humanity has done little to slow...
Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a red dwarf—a star cooler than the sun—500...
Three years ago, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University proposed that a warming Arctic was altering the behavior of the...
- 17 April 2014 12:48 pm , Vol. 344 , #6181
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ScienceShot: Arctic Driftwood Reveals Its Secrets
30 January 2013 1:55 pm
Massive deposits of driftwood lining Arctic shores may be an untapped trove of clues about past climate and ocean currents. Although no forests line the shoreline of the Arctic Ocean, plenty of wood ends up there after floating to sea via rivers that drain Eurasia and North America. In recent field studies conducted at two sites in eastern Greenland and one in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, researchers collected 1445 samples of driftwood that had originated in distant regions. A little less than half of the samples came from cut logs (image), a sign that they had escaped from logging operations, but most of the rest—including parts of mature trees more than 50 years old—had wafted seaward after falling into rivers naturally by erosion due to strong storms or river flooding. The wood that the team analyzed came from trees of seven different genera, with conifers accounting for about 88% of the samples. About 40% of the samples came from pine species found only in Siberia, the researchers report online and in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences. If the origin and age of driftwood samples can be ascertained, either by studies of tree rings or by carbon dating, then scientists might gain insights into long-term variations in river runoff and regional climate, as well as fluctuations in the strengths and paths of ocean currents. Also, by analyzing samples that had accumulated along ancient shorelines that now sit well above sea level, the scientists might be better able to estimate how quickly the landscape has risen in recent millennia after being relieved of the burden of ice sheets that melted at the end of the last ice age.
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