Iceland’s constantly changing landscape: A Book Review

Featured Image: Lake in a volcano’s crater at Mývatn, Iceland. Photo by Philipp Wüthrich on Unsplash.

Book: Iceland: Tectonics, Volcanics, and Glacial Features, Geophysical Monograph 247 (First Edition, 2020)
Author: Dr. Tamie J. Jovanelly
Figure Illustrations: Nathan Mennen
Additional Text:
Emily Larrimore
Publisher:
American Geophysical Union, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

I have always wanted to go to Iceland and travel the countryside marveling at the island’s unique geology and icy wonder. Reading through Iceland: Tectonics, Volcanics, and Glacial Features by Dr. Tamie J. Jovanelly, I felt like I got my chance to tour Iceland; this time with a very experienced guide. Dr. Jovanelly has been to Iceland more than ten times since 2006 to explore and study and her familiarity with the place and the people who live there is engrained in this text.

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New instrument maps and preserves frozen habitats on Earth- and potentially icy worlds

Featured Image: Iceberg in North Star Bay, Greenland by Jeremy Harbeck – NASA, Public Domain

Paper: Subsurface In Situ Detection of Microbes and Diverse
Organic Matter Hotspots in the Greenland Ice Sheet

Authors: Michael J. Malaska, Rohit Bhartia, Kenneth S. Manatt, John C. Priscu, William J. Abbey, Boleslaw Mellerowicz, Joseph Palmowski, Gale L. Paulsen, Kris Zacny, Evan J. Eshelman, and Juliana D’Andrilli

Like the rings of a tree, core samples extracted from glacial ice preserve a unique record of past events. But instead of recording seasonal growth, the ancient ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland have preserved the conditions of long gone climates and ecosystems. Some sheets have continuously accumulated so much snowfall over the past series of millennia that in some places the ice can reach depths that are miles deep. Analyzing this immense glacial record can inform us about not just the global patterns of climate change, but also the evolution of microbial life on Earth, and maybe even the icy worlds of our Solar System. 

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Where’s the plastic gone?

Featured image: Plastic pollution in Ghana. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons/ Muntaka Chasant, CC BY-SA 4.0 license.

Paper: The global biological microplastic particle sink

Authors: K. Kvale, A. E. F. Prowe, C.-T. Chien, A. Landolvi & A. Oschlies

Scientists estimate that about 4% of the plastic waste generated globally ends up in the ocean, much of it in the form of microplastics. These tiny plastics, smaller than the width of a pencil, are a major pollution problem: because of their small size, they are extremely difficult to remove and can be transferred up the food chain to species that humans eat. Furthermore, harmful chemicals have been shown to adsorb onto microplastics, so consumption of microplastics may have indirect health impacts.  While scientists have put together a “plastic budget” for the ocean by estimating inputs of plastic to the ocean and fragmentation rates of larger plastics into microplastics, models based on observations of the amount of plastic waste in the ocean suggest that there is less plastic in the surface ocean than expected based on these budgets. The authors of this study used a model to test two possible explanations for this ‘missing’ plastic, zooplankton ingestion and sinking to the sea floor with marine particles, and find that these biological pathways can account for 100% of the observed “missing” surface microplastic, even in simulations where these processes are modeled as being inefficient.

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Ancient ocean temperatures outline a puzzling period in Earth’s climate history

Paper: The enigma of Oligocene climate and global surface temperature evolution

Featured image: Figure 1 from O’Brien et al. (2020). Paleogeographic reconstruction of the late Oligocene world, with continents and oceans in slightly different positions than today. Symbols indicate paleo-locations of ocean sediments that these scientists discuss in their paper, with stars indicating sites where they estimated Oligocene temperatures.

Authors: Charlotte L. O’Brien, Matthew Huber, Ellen Thomas, Mark Pagani, James R. Super, Leanne E. Elder, Pincelli M. Hull

We know that the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere strongly affects climate –and temperature – on Earth. As carbon dioxide concentrations increase, so does average global temperature; this pattern is clear from direct historical measurements and ice core records going back hundreds of thousands of years. Nevertheless, it’s important to understand how this relationship operated in the past (for example, during times when there was less ice in the cold polar regions of the globe). A new study suggests that, millions of years in the past, the simple relationship between carbon dioxide and temperatures may not have been so clearcut.

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