JOIDES Resolution to Study Climate Change and Earth Systems in the Gulf of Alaska
The scientific ocean drilling vessel JOIDES Resolution will soon embark on its next adventure, Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) Expedition 341 (Southern Alaska Margin Tectonics, Climate and Sedimentation).
The ship will set sail from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada on May 29, with operations concluding on July 29. Led by co-chiefs John Jaeger (U. of Florida) and Sean Gulick (U. of Texas at Austin), the international team of 34 scientists will collect and study sediments from five different locations along the continental margin and deep sea in the Gulf of Alaska.
To better understand the relationship between the Earth’s dynamic geologic processes and climate history, the team will investigate the interactions between long-term global climate change (including the fluctuations of larger erosive glaciers), and the simultaneous growth of mountain belts, including the flux of eroded sediments from the mountains to the deep sea.
Because glaciers can erode and transport large amounts of rock, they can dramatically alter the landscape. Also, by rapidly decreasing the overall mass of rock in the areas they scour, they can also affect the forces that create mountain ranges – sometimes in less than a million years.
“Mountains grow when numerous faults thrust layers of rock on top of each other,” Gulick explains. “Therefore, it’s intuitive to ask whether this action by faults increases in locations with lots of erosion, such as under Alaskan glaciers.“
“The mountains of southern Alaska have the perfect combination of large glaciers and rapidly uplifting mountains to test these ideas,” Jaeger says. “Plus, we know very little about the long-term history of these glaciers, especially relative to what we know about other large ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica. “
Other goals include gaining a better understanding of the timing of the advance and retreat of the Northern Cordilleran Ice Sheet relative to other global ice sheets, obtaining a record of magnetic field reversals in the Gulf of Alaska, and a taking a look at ocean circulation dynamics and their effect on the carbon cycle during transitions into and out of ice ages.
“Thousands of tourists sail through the Gulf of Alaska each year to see the dramatic landscapes created by these glaciers,” Jaeger says. “We hope that findings from our expedition can provide them with a sense of just how dynamic that landscape truly is.”
The Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) is an international research program dedicated to advancing scientific understanding of the Earth through drilling, coring, and monitoring the subseafloor. The JOIDES Resolution is a scientific research vessel managed by the U.S. Implementing Organization of IODP (USIO). Together, Texas A&M University, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, and the Consortium for Ocean Leadership compose the USIO. IODP is supported by two lead agencies: the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology. Additional program support comes from the European Consortium for Ocean Research Drilling (ECORD), the Australia-New Zealand IODP Consortium (ANZIC), India’s Ministry of Earth Sciences, the People’s Republic of China (Ministry of Science and Technology), the Korea Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources, and Brazil’s Ministry of Education (CAPES). For more information, visit www.iodp.org.
For more information about IODP Expedition 341 (Southern Alaska Margin Tectonics, Climate and Sedimentation), visit http://iodp.tamu.edu/scienceops/expeditions/alaska_tectonics_climate.html
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