Arctic river deltas may hold clues to future global climate

Artic lakeAUSTIN, Texas—Scientists struggling to understand how Earth’s climate will change in the next few decades have neglected a potential treasure trove of information—sediments deposited in the ocean by major Arctic rivers such as the Colville and Mackenzie rivers—according to geoscientists at The University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University.

The researchers’ study was published in the May 19 edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Sediments deposited in large river deltas around the world record information about past sea level, productivity and storminess on the ocean margin, climate on the adjacent continents (including temperatures and precipitation) and human factors that affect sediment delivery to the margin (such as dams and levees), among other things. In addition to these climate factors, Arctic sediments, in particular, could contain records of changes on land due to warming, including permafrost temperature and melting of upland glaciers.

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