Exploring the Past to Predict the Future
We have been given the unique opportunity to join a group of scientists from colleges and museums in the United States and Canada to visit an important site in the Canadian Arctic.
The Ohio State University has initiated this crowdfunding mechanism as an alternate mechanism for raising funds. We are using this platform to try to raise enough money to allow a graduate student to conduct research in pursuit of this degree. George Grant is a graduate student in the School of Earth Sciences and a researcher at the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center at the Ohio State University. George is going to join this expedition in July (2016) to collect samples to find out exactly what the environment was like in the Arctic under conditions that are forecast for the next 75 years. George is going to use the past to predict the future!
But George needs your help. Travel to the Canadian Arctic is very expensive, especially for an American scientist. We’re trying to raise money to make get George on the airplane! Please consider making a donation to George’s crowdfunding campaign. Check out our project webpage to learn more!
The Science Behind the Story:
The effects of predicted global climate warming is difficult to visualize because it is unprecedented within the timeframe of humanity’s existence on Earth. However, our planet has already experienced atmospheric CO2 levels and global temperature that is predicted for the next century, during a period known as the Pliocene, 5.3 - 2.5 million years ago. Pliocene atmospheric CO2 was 400 parts per million (ppm; it’s 397 ppm today) and global temperature was 2-3 °C warmer than today. By examining geologic deposits from the past, we are able to take a peek at what the future Earth might look like.
So far, Pliocene deposits point toward a world where climate zones are shifted northerly, so much so that the barren and frigid high Arctic becomes densely vegetated and more similar to boreal forest ecosystems. We have located the most northerly site in North America where ancient forest remains are being exposed by a retreating glacier. This site is full of mummified trees, leaves, insects, nuts, and seeds. All of these fossils exist in a mummified state (they have not turned to petrified material) which allows us the rare opportunity to investigate climate signals preserved in wood whereas these same signals would have been destroyed during petrification.
We will use climate information revealed by this Pliocene forest site to predict what sort of changes to climate might be expected in the next 100 years. We will be using forest remains from the past to predict what sort of changes might occur in the future.
George is scrambling to get ready for his expedition but he needs your help to ensure that he can participate in this once in a lifetime opportunity. Please consider supporting him.