Caves In China Can Help Predict Future Flooding Events In The Region

Posted: Jan 21 2017, 2:10pm CST | by , Updated: Jan 21 2017, 2:19pm CST, in Latest Science News


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Caves in China can Help Predict Future Flooding Events in the Region
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Layers of stalagmite found in the caves hold clues to past precipitation and climate

Understanding extreme weather events of the past can contribute to determine the potential impact of such events in future. But lack of data and real-time observations make it difficult to reconstruct those events in specific details.

Recently, researchers from University of Minnesota have analyzed stalagmite samples collected from Heshang Cave within the Yangtze River drainage in central China and used them to create a picture of the past, in particular major flooding and large amounts of precipitation occurred on 500-year cycles in central China.

Stalagmite is a special kind of rock formation that rises from the floor of the cave due to the accumulation of water from ceiling drippings. Stalagmites tend to develop layers of mineral calcite over time, which is similar to the growth rings of a tree.

Different factors such as precipitation, droughts, insect plagues and air pollution leave their mark on tree’s annual growth rings and can give clues to what the conditions were like in a specific region in the past.

Like tree rings, stalagmites are also an important indicator of Earth’s past climate and can help researchers better understand climate change over time and also the mechanism of strong precipitation, which will inevitably improve the forecast of future floods.

When researchers analyzed iron-rich magnetic materials from the layers of stalagmite, they discovered more than 8,000 years of data inside it. The data varied in such a way that researchers were able to find the evidence of increased concentration of magnetic properties during certain periods.

“To predict how climate change will impact the future, it's important to know what has happened in the past. As the variability and intensity of storms increase in the world, we need to reevaluate what the frequency of these major storms could be," said lead researcher Joshua Feinberg, a professor of Earth Sciences at University of Minnesota.

“We didn't have the potential to develop these kinds of precipitation records for most of the world, until now. These speleothems provide more than 8,000 years of data that led us to identify with strong confidence the presence of a 500-year cycle.”

The variations in magnetic data can be used to anticipate precipitation patterns in the future and to get insight into climate change in the region over time. Researchers are hoping to expand their work to better predict future floods around the globe.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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