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News from Geological Sciences

May, 2015

An article on the importance of fjords in carbon sequestration co-authored by Geological Sciences Professor Thomas Bianchi published online in Nature Geoscience on May 4, 2015 has been widely reported by news media. These include Morning Ticker,,, Nature World Report, Tech Times, Epoch Times, Science Blog, West Texas News, SMJ News, Dispatch Times, Science, News Ledge, Value Walk, and

Fjords are steep-sided marine inlets found along coasts world-wide at high latitudes. They tend to receive large amounts of sediments from the rapid erosion of coastal mountains. Since fjords also tend to be deeper than the surrounding ocean, they effectively trap sediments and terrestrial carbon transported from the land surface. The rapid accumulation of sediments slows down the decomposition of carbon, allowing for more preservation.

According to the study, although fjords cover just 0.1 percent of the surface area of oceans globally, they represent 11 percent of the carbon buried in marine sediments each year, totaling an estimated 18 million metric tons of carbon. The major sink for carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, is the global ocean, but there are certain hotspots in the ocean where carbon is stored rapidly for long periods of time, keeping it out of the atmosphere where it contributes to global warming. This work has shown for the first time that fjords are one of the key storage locations for carbon in the global ocean.

News from Geological Sciences

In an article published in International Innovation in October 2014, Professor Thomas S. Bianchi, holder of the Jon and Beverly Thompson Endowed Chair of Geological Sciences, and Dr. Mead Allison of Tulane University discuss their work with their research team on studies of sediments from river deltas near Alaska's Beaufort Sea. They are developing a high-resolution record of the climate from the Holocene into the late Pleistocene in the Arctic by looking at sediments from 2.6 million to 11,700 years ago to see how climate changed there over that time span. They are considering how what happened then might relate to what's happening now and perhaps predict the future. The team found the first evidence of the Colville River containing organic carbon dating back to that epoch. Their findings also suggest thaw in the region is ongoing and that permafrost organic carbon from this northern Alaskan watershed is moving. Taken together, this data represents the first evidence for the thawing and transport of ancient permafrost. Phase one of the research is finished and the team is doing additional data analysis now. Other river deltas in that area will be examined by the team in the future.

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