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Getting to the Core of Climate Change

In order to figure out the climate, we've drilled into ice cores. Now we've found another kind of core to look at: sediments from the earth's core that have been found over a thousand feet beneath the Arctic ocean, which reveal what happened to the earth in over 50 million years of climate change. Meanwhile, polar bears are suffering so much from global warming that they are becoming cannibals.

Polar bears are resorting to cannibalism because longer seasons without ice keep them from getting to the seals which are their natural food. For the first time, polar bears are reported to have killed a female shortly after she gave birth. In LiveScience.com, Dan Joling quotes scientists as saying, "During 24 years of research on polar bears in the southern Beaufort Sea region of northern Alaska and 34 years in northwestern Canada, we have not seen other incidents of polar bears stalking, killing, and eating other polar bears.''

LiveScience.com reports that climate change is also being studied in the Arctic. In 2004, scientists from the Universities of Rhode Island and Stockholm teamed up to examine this Arctic ocean sediment core. Oceanographer Kate Moran says, "Little direct evidence about the environmental history of the Arctic Ocean existed before our cruise, partly because of the enormous technological challenges of collecting the samples. Our analysis of the core sample suggests that 55 million years ago the Arctic was much warmer than today. We anticipate that our data will be used by climate modelers to give us better information about how climate change occurs and where global climate might be heading.

"Today's warming of the Arctic can, in all likelihood, be attributed to mankind?s impact on the planet, but as our data suggest, natural processes operating in the past have also resulted in a significant warming and cooling of the Arctic."

Proof of a warmer Arctic Ocean in the past came from the large number freshwater ferns from around 50 million years ago, as well as from pebbles and sand in the sediment cores. This is debris that fell out of floating ice, which means that the climate got cooler around 45 million years ago. The same type of evidence has been found at the other end of the earth, in Antarctica, showing that climate change occurred the same way at both poles. Climate change at the poles won't be affected by the coming pole shift.

Art credit: gimp-savvy.com

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