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
Join the Conversation
- MH370 Search Update: Australian Scientists Has Reportedly Found A Solution To The Mystery Of Missing Malaysia Airlines Jet
- 'Human Skull' Found On Mars [Watch Video]
- UFO Sighting: UFO Spotted Above Las Vegas, Nevada
- Final 2014 Solar Eclipse: When And How To Safely View It Plus Where To Watch Online Via Live Stream
- Alien Toy Doll Found On Mars [Watch Video]
- iOS 8 Jailbreak Release Date Likely this October 2014 with Pangu not Evad3rs Firming Up as Creator
- Chilling: New ISIS Video Addresses Australia; Aussie Teen Delivers Message
- The Pirate Bay Blockade: Cost Of Blocking Websites Like TPB Is Ridiculously High
- Xiaomi Mi4 And MiPad Prices Likely Slashed, Thanks To Rivals Oppo, OnePlus And Meizu
- Top 4 Free-To-Download Apps for Fuller iPhone 6, 6 Plus Experience
- Battery Saving Android 5.0 Lollipop Feature Extends The Battery Life Of Your Android Device By 90 Minutes And Displays Orange Bar While Power Saving Mode Is On
- Russia Beefs Up Gold Reserves To Offset Heat of Sanctions And Undercut Dollar