New Zealand's Iron-Rich Dust May Have Contributed to Earth's Last Ice Age
By Reissa Su | March 26, 2014 5:38 PM EST
New Zealand is rich in dust infused with iron which researchers said can help explain how the Earth cooled after the last Ice Age. Scientists travelled to New Zealand's Southern Alps in an expedition to gather dust samples and study their link to Earth's last Ice Age which happened approximately 22,000 years ago.
An artist's rendering of an Ice Age mammoth skeleton. REUTERS/Handout
The dust in New Zealand was not the only reason for the Ice Age but it has more likely contributed to cool the Earth's temperatures, according to Bess Koffman, a researcher at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University.
Ms Koffman told Live Science that the iron-rich dust in New Zealand usually increases when there are changes in climate. Researchers think that the dust is an "important driver" in the Earth's climate system. They found ice cores thousands of years old and marine sediments believed to be four million years old. The ice cores and sediments contained layers of iron-rich dust which correlates with periods of cooling.
How the dust cools the Earth
Iron-rich dust is associated with cooler temperatures based through growing plant-like organisms known as phytoplankton. According to scientists, large quantities of iron-rich dust can be found around in the world in pieces of broken-down rocks.
When the dust becomes loose and dry, it can easily travel and carried by winds into the atmosphere before settling on land or the open sea. Once in the ocean, the dust helps fertilise the phytoplankton which gets carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during photosynthesis.
When the plant-like organisms die, they sink to the bottom of the seafloor and bring with them huge amounts of carbon dioxide. This results in the gradual cooling of the climate.
Scientists originally thought that Australia may have been the most significant source of dust to the Southern Ocean in the last Ice Age. However, Ms Koffman's team thinks the abundant glaciers in New Zealand may have had a dustier landmass than the continent of Australia.
According to Ms Koffman, Australia was relatively wet in the last Ice Age compared to New Zealand which contained more iron-rich dust that would fertilise the marine phytoplankton.
To contact the editor, e-mail:
Most Popular Slideshows
- Still The World Champions: Team USA Overpowers Serbia, 129-92 To Win 2014 FIBA World Cup [PHOTOS]
- Pope Francis: World War III Has Started On Piecemeal
- After Win Over Maidana, Mayweather Says He Is Prepared To Negotiate A Fight With Pacquiao
- From Fat To Fit: Celebrities Who Were Overweight Before They Became The Beauties That They Are
Join the Conversation
- Alien Mystery: The Most Famous Unexplained Alien Abduction Cases (Watch Video)
- Aurora Borealis Paints A Beautiful Picture On The Northern Skies [Watch Video]
- West Seattle Man Accuses Stranger Obese Woman Of Rape While He Was Asleep
- University of Waterloo U Study Recommends Best Sex Positions To Ease Back Pain During Lovemaking
- Testicular Cancer Survivor Pushes 6-Foot Giant Ball Across The US To Create Awareness About Ailment
- iPhone 6 vs iPhone 6 Plus vs Galaxy S5 and HTC One M8: Performance, CPU and Health
- Google Release Roundup: Nexus 5 2014, Nexus 6, Nexus 8 and Android L Killer Features
- Samsung Attacks iPhone 6 Plus Through New Galaxy Note 4 Commercial: Apple Claims Imitating Galaxy Note Phablets
- iPhone 6 And IPhone 6 Plus Sold Out, New Stocks To Arrive In October
- Moto G (Gen 2) vs. Xiaomi Redmi 1S—Specifications, Features And Price Showdown
- Nexus 6, 8 Release Dates Imminent as Moto X Pre-Order Begins & Nexus 7 Deals Ramp Up
- iPhone 6 And iPhone 6 Plus Shipping Has Begun, Expected To Reach Customers’ Doorstep On Sept 19 Launch Date