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Explore our recent ventures, each focused on answering specific questions about Earth's environment and our place in it.

An archaeological proxy for the earliest modern human colonization of Eastern Europe?: New field research at Shlyakh, Don River area, southern Russia

An archaeological proxy for the earliest modern human colonization of Eastern Europe?

Roughly 50,000 years ago, a stone tool industry appeared in south-central Europe that lacks any obvious local source. This industry may represent the earliest known movement of Homo sapiens into Europe, apparently during an interval of sustained warmth (Greenland Interstadial 12). Alternatively, it may represents an independent development among local Neanderthals. The East European site most likely to contain an industry of similar age and composition is Shlyakh, near Volgograd. Original excavations yielded a Levallois point and blade industry, but efforts to date it produced conflicting results. In August 2013, new field research was undertaken at Shlyakh in order to obtain new dates for the site, as well as new information on site stratigraphy and formation processes.

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Cause and onset of Little Ice Age

Cause and onset of Little Ice Age

Scientists have disagreed for many years over the precise cause for a period of cooling global temperatures that began after the Middle Ages and lasted into the late 19th century, commonly known as the Little Ice Age. Now, a new study led by INSTAAR Fellow Gifford Miller indicates that 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.

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Changes in North Atlantic CO2 Uptake

Changes in North Atlantic CO2 Uptake

We want to quantify the impact of ocean circulation-driven variability in carbon and nutrient induction on observed changes in surface ocean productivity and air-sea CO2 fluxes in the North Atlantic. Data suggest that ocean biological productivity and carbon uptake are changing, but we are challenged to distinguish between anthropogenically-forced trends and natural decadal timescale variability.

In this proposed work, we will quantify the impact of ocean circulation-driven variability in carbon and nutrient induction on observed changes in surface ocean productivity and air-sea CO2 fluxes in the North Atlantic.

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Disappearing ice: Paleoclimate investigations on Baffin Island, Arctic Canada

Disappearing ice: Paleoclimate investigations on Baffin Island, Arctic Canada

This research is aimed at documenting the timing, mechanisms, and effects of climate changes past and present on the Cumberland Penninsula of Baffin Island. Understanding how this region has responded to climate forcings throughout the Holocene will help us better constrain its role in future climate change and contextualize the magnitude of current warming.

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Estimating snowpack and streamflow conditions in the Colorado headwaters: Combining a MODIS-based snow water equivalent product and statistical interpolation methods

Estimating snowpack and streamflow conditions in the Colorado headwaters

We are seeking to develop a snow water equivalent (SWE) monitoring technique that can leverage both point scale measurements and spatially explicit patterns of SWE from remote sensing in near real-time, which will help provide more credible estimates for water resource applications.

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Kostenki: Landscape archaeology of the early Upper Paleolithic on the central East European Plain

Kostenki: Landscape archaeology of the early Upper Paleolithic on the central East European Plain

Kostenki is a village on the west bank of Don River in Russia, within and around which are found more than 20 open-air archaeological sites that date to the Upper Paleolithic, and provide a unique window on life on the central plain of Eastern Europe between 45,000 years ago and the end of the Ice Age.

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Ozone and Snow: Measuring trace gas exchange between air and snow

Ozone and Snow

Scientists on this project are looking for answers about how ozone is created and destroyed in snow. Ozone in the atmosphere can be both destroyed and formed through chemical and biological processes occurring in the snow beneath. The measurements available to date show that these processes are big enough collectively to affect arctic ozone levels over large regions; but we don’t yet know enough to understand the size of these impacts. Further, climate changes in the Arctic are more pronounced than in any other area on earth, and future trends in snow cover extent, snow depth, sea-ice extent, and permafrost extent are expected to be significant. This project will help us predict the future effects of air-snow exchange upon ozone in the troposphere.

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Snowpack and ecosystem dynamics: Sustainability of inter-basin water transfers under a changing climate

Snowpack and ecosystem dynamics

Increasing demand for water, combined with reduced water storage in the snowpack associated with regional warming, is creating resource pressures across the American West. This project will develop cross-cutting scientific understanding of climate-snow-ecosystem feedbacks to identify tipping points that impact the operational procedures and legal agreements associated with water allocations and trans-basin diversions. The nexus of the proposed activity is a synthesis of snowpack information to accurately estimate snowpack water storage.

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Variability in Southern Ocean Biogeochemistry

Variability in Southern Ocean Biogeochemistry

The Southern Ocean plays a critical role in the global carbon cycle, absorbing a substantial fraction of anthropogenic CO2 from the atmosphere and ventilating the deep, carbon-rich ocean basins. Despite its importance, our understanding of air-sea CO2 exchange in the Southern Ocean is far from complete. This project is intended to quantify and understand the spatiotemporal variability in Southern Ocean biogeochemistry using data collected in the Drake Passage measurement program, data collected in other parts of the Southern Ocean, and output from an ocean biogeochemical and ecological model. This study will help to confirm trends and understand the cause of decreasing CO2 uptake in the Southern Ocean in recent decades.

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