December 10th, 2019High in the Canadian Arctic on Baffin Island, beneath 10 meters of water and many more of mud, sits a refrigerated archive of Earth’s past life. The deep sediments in a small lake called CF8 hold ancient pollen and plant fossils. But it now appears that the mud harbors something else: ancient DNA from as far back as the Eemian, a period 125,000 years ago when the Arctic was warmer than today, left by vegetation that otherwise would have vanished without a trace. Highlights the work of postdoc and former grad student Sarah Crump.
January 25th, 2019Glacial retreat in the Canadian Arctic has uncovered landscapes that haven’t been ice-free in more than 40,000 years, and the region may be experiencing its warmest century in 115,000 years, new INSTAAR-led research finds. The study, published today in the journal Nature Communications, uses radiocarbon dating to determine the ages of plants collected at the edges of 30 ice caps on Baffin Island, west of Greenland.
April 17th, 2018Professor Giff Miller is the recipient of the 2018 Distinguished Career Award from the American Quaternary Association. It is the highest award made by the Association and honors a lifetime commitment to Quaternary science.
December 4th, 2017Julio Sepúlveda is a unique fossil-hunter. Rather than the hard exoskeletons of ancient organisms, Sepúlveda analyzes a softer biological component, fats. He looks at the distribution of organic molecules in nature from soils and sediments to lakes and the ocean, with a focus mostly on lipids, the molecular constituent of fat. He uses this data to not only reconstruct ancient environments but also to contribute to predictions for how our current climate might respond to similar environmental conditions.
January 17th, 2017As part of the new year, we took a look at the most talked-about INSTAAR papers in recent months. An Altmetric search showed the top 10 papers with INSTAAR authors that have figured most prominently in the news and in social media conversations.
August 12th, 2016Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research (AAAR) has announced a Call for Papers for a special issue to be published in 2017: “Environmental Change and Impacts in the Kangerlussuaq Area, West Greenland”
August 9th, 2016INSTAAR Fellow John Andrews has been awarded the Penrose Medal, the highest honor from the Geological Society of America, for his original contributions to the science of geology.
February 1st, 2016The first direct evidence that humans played a substantial role in the extinction of the huge, wondrous beasts inhabiting Australia some 50,000 years ago--in this case a 500-pound bird, Genyornis newtoni--has been discovered by a University of Colorado Boulder-led team.
July 6th, 2015Bruce Vaughn describes the international 2015 expedition to drill an ice core through the Renland Ice Cap, Greenland, in a video by student journalist Paul Mcdivitt.
December 15th, 2014INSTAAR faculty and graduate students will share new research at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting in San Francisco, 15 to 19 December. They will present new research on abrupt climate change, air quality and fracking, polar climate change, atmospheric chemistry, flood impacts, forests and snow, plants and soils, and past climates.
April 2nd, 2014INSTAAR Senior Fellow and Geological Sciences Professor Emeritus John T. Andrews was named an Honorary Member by the Quaternary Research Association (QRA) at its recent meeting in London.
February 27th, 2014A new study bolsters the theory that the first Americans, who are believed to have come over from northeast Asia during the last ice age, may have been isolated on the Bering Land Bridge for thousands of years before spreading throughout the Americas. The theory, now known as the “Beringia Standstill,” was first proposed in 1997, but gained little traction outside of the genetics community after it was proposed and has been seen by some scientists outside of the field as far-fetched. But the new paper by INSTAAR researcher John Hoffecker and co-authors Scott Elias of Royal Holloway, University of London, and Dennis O’Rourke of the University of Utah adds credence to the Beringia Standstill idea by further linking the genetics to the paleoecological evidence.
January 8th, 2014Astrid Ogilvie is on her way to Iceland as the new Visiting Nansen Professor in Arctic Studies at the University of Akureyri. Ogilvie was awarded the twelve-month appointment by representatives from the University of Akureyri and the Icelandic and Norwegian ministries of foreign affairs.
December 5th, 2013INSTAAR faculty and graduate students will share their research at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting (http://fallmeeting.agu.org/2013/) held in San Francisco, 9 to 13 December. They will present new research on abrupt climate change, atmospheric chemistry, geomorphology, rivers and oceans, forests and snow, plants and soils, past climates, flood monitoring, Antarctic volcanoes, coastal erosion, and emissions from energy production.
August 21st, 2013Meet the people behind the science—and art—resulting from INSTAAR research, featured in two recent EARTH Magazine interviews.
July 31st, 2013A new study involving Giff Miller, Jim White, and former students and postdocs suggests that an ice-free Arctic Ocean may have amped up temperatures during the Pliocene Epoch. Year-round ice-free conditions across the Arctic Ocean could explain why the Earth was substantially warmer during the Pliocene Epoch than it is today, despite similar concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, according to the research published online in Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology.
January 24th, 2013New results from the international NEEM deep ice core drilling project on Greenland, analyzing cores going back in time more than 100,000 years, indicates the last interglacial period may be a good analog for where the planet is headed in terms of increasing greenhouse gases and rising temperatures.
January 30th, 2012A new study led by INSTAAR Fellow Gifford Miller appears to answer contentious questions about the onset and cause of Earth’s Little Ice Age, a period of cooling temperatures that began after the Middle Ages and lasted into the late 19th century. According to the study, the Little Ice Age began abruptly between A.D. 1275 and 1300, triggered by repeated, explosive volcanism and sustained by a self-perpetuating sea ice-ocean feedback system in the North Atlantic Ocean.
March 15th, 2011INSTAAR postdoc Vasilii Petrenko was interviewed by Public Radio International (PRI) while helping drill shallow ice cores on the Taylor Glacier in Antarctica. The interview begins with the the eerie pinging sounds created by dropping leftover ice blocks back into a borehole 20 m (70 ft) deep.
January 7th, 2011North Atlantic water flowing into the Arctic Ocean is warmer than it has been in at least 2,000 years, which is likely amplifying global warming in the Arctic, says a new international study involving INSTAAR fellow Tom Marchitto. The team believes that the rapid warming of the Arctic and recent decrease in sea ice extent are tied to the enhanced heat transfer from the North Atlantic Ocean.
September 10th, 2010An international science team involving CU-Boulder that is working on the North Greenland Eemian Ice Drilling project (NEEM) hit bedrock July 27 after two summers of work, drilling down more than 1.5 miles in an effort to help assess the risks of abrupt future climate change on Earth.
February 10th, 2010Craig Lee and James Dixon are featured in a National Geographic Series “Naked Science.” The episode is titled “Surviving Ancient Alaska" and includes Lee and Dixon's research into the archaeological potential of melting snow and ice in Denali and Lake Clark National Parks.
October 19th, 2009A team of researchers discovered that biological and chemical changes occurring at a remote Arctic lake in recent decades are unprecedented over the past 200,000 years and the result of human-caused climate change. Their record of past environments goes back in time 80,000 years before the oldest reliable ice cores from Greenland and captures three interglacial periods, including the Holocene. But changes seen in the sediment cores since about 1950 show that expected natural climate cooling and related changes in the lake environment are being overridden by human activity like greenhouse gas emissions.
September 4th, 2009An international team of scientists have reconstructed past climate in the Arctic over the past 2,000 years in unprecedented detail. The team found that Arctic temperatures have reversed from a long-term cooling trend and are now the warmest they have been in at least 2,000 years, bad news for the world’s coastal cities facing rising seas in the coming decades.
August 26th, 2009A new international research effort on the Greenland ice sheet--with Jim White helping lead the U.S. contribution--set a record for single-season deep ice-core drilling this summer, recovering more than a mile of ice core that is expected to help scientists better assess the risks of abrupt climate change in the future.
June 21st, 2009Researchers have produced an exceptionally detailed record of past ice-sheet retreat through a Canadian fjord and, in the process, have provided insight into how present ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica may thin and retreat with continued global warming.
April 23rd, 2009Vasilii Petrenko (INSTAAR postdoc) led a large international team in developing and applying a new technique for analyzing the carbon-14 content of methane in ancient Greenland ice. Their analyses suggest that a spike in the greenhouse gas methane about 11,600 years ago originated from wetlands rather than the ocean floor or from permafrost, a finding that is good news from a global warming standpoint.
March 17th, 2009Gifford Miller was elected a fellow of the American Geophysical Union for his "pioneering work in dating methods as well as his insights into Quaternary climates and the role of humans in ecological change." Fellowship is bestowed on no more than 0.1 percent of the total AGU membership of about 45,000 in any given year and recognizes scientists who have attained acknowledged eminence in the geophysical sciences.
January 16th, 2009
January 10th, 2009Lesleigh Anderson, John Andrews, Tom Marchitto, Giff Miller, and Daniel Muhs are among the contributors to an exceptional new resource.
December 15th, 2008The INSTAAR fellow emerita was one of six honored by University during its 174th Dies Academicus.
June 19th, 2008Jim White and Trevor Popp are part of a 17-person international ice-core team who discovered that two huge temperature spikes prior to the close of the last ice age some 11,500 years ago were tied to rapid and fundamental shifts in atmospheric circulation.
January 30th, 2008Rebecca Anderson, Gifford Miller, Stephen DeVogel, and colleagues have determined that ice caps on the northern plateau of Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic are currently smaller than they have been for at least the last 1,600 years, with their extent shrinking by more than 50% since 1958. Even with no additional warming, the ice caps are expected to disappear in 50 years or less.
October 28th, 2007John Hoffecker and Scott Elias have produced a synthesis of environment and human settlement in Beringia, published by Columbia University Press.
July 10th, 2007John Andrews has been chosen to receive the Distinguished Career Award with the Quaternary Geology and Geomorphology Division of the Geological Society of America for his legacy in Quaternary geology and geomorphology.
June 24th, 2007Gifford Miller provided commentary for Bone Diggers, a new NOVA documentary on the discovery of pristine skeletal remains of Pleistocene megafauna in remote Australian limestone caves.
June 1st, 2007Tom Marchitto, Scott Lehman, Jaqueline Flückiger, and colleagues have identified a mechanism for the enormous carbon dioxide increase in Earth's atmosphere at the end of the last ice age: abrupt changes in deep ocean circulation. The team analyzed sediment cores from the North Pacific, discovering two large CO2 "burps."
September 10th, 2006John Andrews, Anne Jennings, and colleagues have assembled marine core records of ice-rafted debris (IRD) off North Iceland, East Greenland, and Labrador that are at odds with an earlier and oft-cited study showing a pervasive ~1.5 thousand year periodicity of IRD delivery during the Holocene (last ~11,400 years).
June 1st, 2006For exceptional scientific research, David Anderson received an award that recognizes excellence in the federal workforce.
March 25th, 2006Gifford Miller was a member of two research teams that combined paleoclimate evidence from the Last Interglacial period with climate and ice sheet modeling to infer that Earth's warming temperatures are on track to melt the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets sooner than previously thought and ultimately lead to a global sea level rise of at least 20 feet.
November 20th, 2005Gifford Miller received the Easterbrook Distinguished Scientist Award at the Geological Society of America's (GSA) 2005 annual meeting.
November 5th, 2005Humans have been tinkering with greenhouse gas levels in Earth's atmosphere for at least 2,000 years and probably longer, according to a surprising new study of methane trapped in Antarctic ice cores conducted by an international research team.
July 5th, 2005Gifford Miller led an international team to discover that the diet of two flightless birds inhabiting Australia shifted soon after humans arrived ca. 50,000 years ago, coincident with a rapid and dramatic shift in the ecosystem's flora. Their discovery is the best evidence yet that early humans may have altered the continent's interior with fire, changing it from a mosaic of trees, shrubs, and grasses to the desert scrub evident today.
January 25th, 2005Landscape burning by ancient hunters and gatherers may have triggered the failure of the annual Australian Monsoon some 12,000 years ago, resulting in the desertification of the country's interior that is evident today, according to a new study.
December 1st, 2004John Hoffecker has written a compelling account of how humans, who evolved in the tropics, came to inhabit some of the coldest places on earth over the span of nearly two million years.
September 15th, 2004A new, undisturbed Greenland ice deep-core record going back 123,000 years shows the Eemian period prior to the last glacial period was slightly warmer than the present day before it gradually cooled and sent Earth into an extended deep freeze.
August 12th, 2004A team of international researchers working on the North Greenland Ice Core Project recently recovered what appear to be plant remnants nearly two miles below the surface between the bottom of the glacial ice and the bedrock.
June 27th, 2004Joe Stoner participated in a German-led study of marine sediments from the Chilean continental margin that show a clear "Antarctic" timing of sea surface temperature changes.
June 9th, 2004Recovery of a new ice core in Antarctica that extends back 740,000 years--nearly twice as long as any other ice core record--will help scientists better understand the Earth's climate and issues related to global warming, according to INSTAAR Jim White.
June 1st, 2004INSTAAR graduate student Jocelyn Turnbull spent 8 weeks in Japan working on a carbon cycle research project with the greenhouse gas group at Tohoku University in Sendai.
January 12th, 2004Researchers have constructed a new high-resolution calibration of the radiocarbon time scale back to 50,000 years before the present.
September 8th, 2003John Andrews led a six-person team to reconstruct a high-resolution paleoceanographic history off North Iceland for the past 12,000 years.
May 3rd, 2003William Manley used a Geographic Information System (GIS) to create a movie showing how the Bering Land Bridge evolved after the Last Glacial Maximum, about 21,000 years ago.
March 8th, 2003E. James Dixon was interviewed for a Nature News Feature on the explosion of interest in studying the climatic, environmental and geological conditions that prevailed along the Pacific Coast during the past 35,000 years.
January 24th, 2003Anil Gupta (Indian Institute of Technology), David Anderson (INSTAAR & NOAA Paleoclimatology), and Jonathan Overpeck (U of Arizona) developed a new centennial-scale proxy record of the southwestern monsoon winds spanning the Holocene period (last ~11,000 years).
November 1st, 2002The Geological Society of America honored John Andrews' tremendous impact on the Quaternary sciences at the annual meeting with two special sessions entitled "Quaternary Sciences from Land to Sea: In Honor of John T. Andrews."
October 2nd, 2002Mark Meier, one of the world's leading glaciologists, has been named the winner of the Goldthwait Polar Medal in recognition of his outstanding contributions to polar research.
April 4th, 2002Gifford Miller was interviewed while doing fieldwork in Australia by INSTAAR affiliate Daniel Grossman for stories aired on National Public Radio and Radio Netherlands in March. Miller's studies indicate that Aborigines in Australia may have contributed to widespread climate change some 50,000 years ago
March 10th, 2002David Anderson and David Archer (Univ Chicago) have reconstructed carbonate-ion concentration—and hence pH—of the glacial oceans, using the extent of calcium carbonate dissolution observed in foraminifer faunal assemblages.
March 3rd, 2001Connie Woodhouse was cited in the recently published Colorado Drought Mitigation and Response Plan for her dendroclimatological work showing persistent periods of drought lasting longer than droughts in the instrumental record.
December 5th, 2000Ancient ice cores indicate air temperatures in Antarctica rose up to 18 degrees Fahrenheit in just a few decades as the last ice age began to wane some 19,000 years ago, the largest and most abrupt warming spike ever recorded in the Southern Hemisphere.
In The News
January 24th, 2020Twin calamities marked the end of the Cretaceous period, and scientists (including INSTAAR Julio Sepulvéda) are presenting new evidence of which drove one of Earth’s great extinctions in this New York Times story.
January 23rd, 2020Massive gas bursts emitted by volcanoes about 66 million years ago probably couldn’t have caused a mass extinction event that spelled doom for all nonbird dinosaurs, suggests a new study. Data on ancient temperatures, combined with simulations of the shifting carbon cycle in the ocean, lend support to the hypothesis that a giant asteroid impact—not toxic gases emitted by Deccan Traps eruption—was primarily responsible for the die-off. The study, which included INSTAAR Julio Sepulvéda among its authors, was published January 17 in Science.
January 25th, 2019On Baffin Island, "unprecedented" summer warmth over the last century is shrinking its glaciers, reports a new study from INSTAARs and others in Nature Communications.
December 14th, 2018The history of our climate is written in ice. Reading it is a matter of deciphering the complex signals pulled from tens of thousands of years of accumulated isotopes frozen miles below the surface of Antarctica. When making sense of the massive amount of information packed into an ice core, scientists face a forensic challenge: how best to separate the useful information from the corrupt. A new paper published in the journal Entropy shows how tools from information theory, a branch of complexity science, can address this challenge by quickly homing in on portions of the data that require further investigation.
May 25th, 201866 million years ago, a mountain-sized asteroid slammed into Earth, initiating a cascade of calamities that eradicated three-fourths of the species on the planet, including the non-avian dinosaurs. Scientists have long theorized that an initial pulse of heat was followed by a devastating global winter. After that, as carbon dioxide in the atmosphere surged, the planet became a hothouse. A new study published Thursday in the journal Science has produced hard data to support that global warming hypothesis, and it may have unnerving implications for the world we live in today.
May 25th, 2018In a new study published in the journal Science, a team of scientists use the chemical fingerprint in fish debris to measure dramatic temperature changes caused by the massive asteroid impact about 65 million years ago. They say that the results could teach us what to expect from our own forays into the large-scale release of climate-altering gases.
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