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News Release, Kansas Geological Survey, Aug. 16, 2007

KU, Survey Researchers Receive Grant to Study Ancient Climate

LAWRENCE--A hundred million years ago, the earth was so warm that dinsosaurs lived in swamps near the North Pole.

As part of an effort to better understand the climate during those ancient times, scientists from the Kansas Geological Survey and the University of Kansas have received a grant from the National Science Foundation.

Researchers Greg Ludvigson, from the Survey, and Luis Gonzalez, Jennifer Roberts, and David Fowle from the KU Department of Geology, along with Steven Driese of Baylor University, received the $250,000 NSF grant.

They will use it to study the formation of siderite, a type of iron mineral, in today's environment. By better understanding how siderite is formed at present, they can learn more about the climate when siderite was formed in the past. In particular, the researchers are interested in climate during the Cretaceous Period, about 100 million years ago, and shortly after.

Because of current concerns about climate change, researchers are working to develop models of the climate during other warm periods in earth history when no people were present. Reconstructing the climate during those ancient times is known as paleoclimatology.

The Cretaceous Period and the period shortly thereafter are of particular interest because of extreme warming throughout the world. Polar regions were warm enough that crocodile-like animals, which cannot survive subfreezing conditions, lived near the North Pole. Fossils of these animals were recently discovered in the Canadian Arctic.

The KU scientists plan to sample soils and water in Kansas, Texas, Louisiana, and New Jersey and analyze them for siderite formation. In Kansas, they'll be taking samples in wetland areas of Douglas County to look at siderite formation.

"By understanding how siderite forms in modern environments, we can better apply that understanding to interpret ancient climates," said Ludvigson. "This will help us better understand times of global warming in the geologic past, and thus help advance fundamental research about forecasting the atmospheric processes on an earth that's getting warmer."

Story by Rex Buchanan, (785) 864-2106.
For more information, contact Greg Ludvigison, (785) 864-2734

Kansas Geological Survey, Public Outreach