JOIDES Resolution to Study Climate Change and Earth Systems in the Gulf of Alaska

2016-06-28T19:38:36+00:00 May 29, 2013|
The scientific drilling vessel JOIDES Resolution, pictured here, will sail to the Gulf of Alaska this summer to study the interaction of climate, tectonics, and mountain building processes in the mountain ranges of southern Alaska. (Image Credit: Arito Sakaguchi)

(Click to enlarge) The scientific drilling vessel JOIDES Resolution, pictured here, will sail to the Gulf of Alaska this summer to study the interaction of climate, tectonics, and mountain building processes in the mountain ranges of southern Alaska. (Image Credit: Arito Sakaguchi)

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. 

The St. Elias Mountains are situated on the southern coast of Alaska and overlap the Canadian border. They have been formed primarily by tectonic uplift, as the Pacific plate pushes its way underneath the North American plate. The erosive activity of glaciers has also contributed significantly to their current form. (Image Credit: John Jaeger)

(Click to enlarge) The St. Elias Mountains are situated on the southern coast of Alaska and overlap the Canadian border. They have been formed primarily by tectonic uplift, as the Pacific plate pushes its way underneath the North American plate. The erosive activity of glaciers has also contributed significantly to their current form. (Image Credit: John Jaeger)

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.

Mount St. Elias straddles the border between Alaska and Canada’s Yukon Territory. The Malaspina Glacier, visible in the foreground, is a piedmont glacier that spreads out over the land as it reaches lower elevation.  (Image Credit: John Jaeger)

(Click to enlarge) Mount St. Elias straddles the border between Alaska and Canada’s Yukon Territory. The Malaspina Glacier, visible in the foreground, is a piedmont glacier that spreads out over the land as it reaches lower elevation. (Image Credit: John Jaeger)

“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. “

The sites marked in red denote where the science party for IODP Expedition 341 (Southern Alaska Margin Tectonics, Climate and Sedimentation) plans to drill sediment core samples this summer, aboard the scientific ocean drilling vessel JOIDES Resolution.

(Click to enlarge) The sites marked in red denote where the science party for IODP Expedition 341 (Southern Alaska Margin Tectonics, Climate and Sedimentation) plans to drill sediment core samples this summer, aboard the scientific ocean drilling vessel JOIDES Resolution.

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.”

This detailed map of the Gulf of Alaska region shows the location of previous DSDP and ODP drilling locations (see inset) as well as the proposed drilling sites for IODP Expedition 341 (GOAL/KB locations). The continental shelf has been extensively surveyed using seismic reflection techniques, as denoted by the various colored lines. High-resolution multichannel seismic (MCS) lines collected in 2004 are shown in yellow. Reflection and refraction lines (green) were collected in summer 2008 as part of the STEEP program.

(Click to enlarge) This detailed map of the Gulf of Alaska region shows the location of previous DSDP and ODP drilling locations (see inset) as well as the proposed drilling sites for IODP Expedition 341 (GOAL/KB locations). The continental shelf has been extensively surveyed using seismic reflection techniques, as denoted by the various colored lines. High-resolution multichannel seismic (MCS) lines collected in 2004 are shown in yellow. Reflection and refraction lines (green) were collected in summer 2008 as part of the STEEP program.

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About IODP

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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Media Contacts:

Matthew Wright
Consortium for Ocean Leadership
Washington, D.C. USA
mwright@oceanleadership.org

+1-202-448-1254

Miyuki Otomo
IODP Management International, Inc. (IODP-MI)
Tokyo, Japan
motomo@iodp.org

+81-3-6701-3188