New Zealand's Iron-Rich Dust May Have Contributed to Earth's Last Ice Age
By Reissa Su | March 26, 2014 5:41 PM EST
New Zealand is rich in dust infused with iron. Researchers said this can help explain how the Earth cooled after the last Ice Age. Scientists travelld to New Zealand's Southern Alps in an expedition to gather dust samples and study their link to Earth's last Ice Age which occurred about 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.
Koffman told Live Science the iron-rich dust in New Zealand usually increases when there are climate changes. Researchers think 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 4 million years old. The ice cores and sediments contained layers of iron-rich dust which correlates with periods of cooling.
How 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 fertilize 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. But Koffman's team thought the abundant glaciers in New Zealand may have had a dustier landmass than the Australian continent.
According to Koffman, Australia was relatively wet in the last Ice Age compared to New Zealand, which contained more iron-rich dust that would fertilize the marine phytoplankton.
To contact the editor, e-mail:
Most Popular Slideshows
- Kate Middleton Suffocated in Kensington Palace, Queen Elizabeth Reported War With The Duchess [PHOTOS]
- Chris Martin Dating Reports: Jennifer Lawrence Vs Gwyneth Paltrow [PHOTOS]
- 2014 MTV Video Music Awards: Everything To Know [PHOTOS]
- British Style Icon Kate Middleton Fashion Talk With Camilla Parker-Bowles Daughter-In-Law [PHOTOS]
Join the Conversation
- UFO Sighters Have Found A Bone In Mars Amidst Reports of UFO Sighting[Watch Video]
- Facts On ALS Disease: Symptoms, Causes And Treatment
- HIV Cure: Shock-and-Kill Method Unlocks 'No Remission' Possibility for Future Treatments
- Camel Milk Holds Answer for Diabetes, Autism, Lactose Intolerance, Allergies
- 'Alien' Ecosystem Found Under Antarctic Ice: Hope For Life in Other Icy Planets (Watch Video)
- James Foley Beheading Video Has Play-Acting Portions – Video Experts Say
- 4.7-Inch, 5.5-Inch iPhone 6 Models Confirmed with Similar Build, Cam Features & 300+ Screen Pixels on Release Date
- Apple iPhone 6 Release Date, iPhone 6C or 6L Anticipation: Three Things Should Matter To New Phone Shoppers
- Xiaomi Mi4 vs iPhone 6: Why Forecasts Favor Mi4 as The Next Best Phone Against iPhone 6
- James Foley: More Chilling Information Revealed By Escaped Journalists
- Companies Push Back IPO Plans Due to Mega Alibaba Share Launch
- Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Release Date Update: 4 Feature Upgrades That Really Matter