BEES research featured in Nature

BEES researchers Mieke Thierens and Andy Wheeler have had their research highlighted in a recent issue of Nature:

Nature ExcerptThe research article entitled Ice-rafting from the British–Irish ice sheet since the earliest Pleistocene (2.6 million years ago): implications for long-term mid-latitudinal ice-sheet growth in the North Atlantic region is published in the journal Quaternary Science Reviews.

Lead author Mieke Thierens explains the research:

Mieke Thierens

Mieke Thierens

“The detailed investigation of sediments deposited in a deep-sea cold-water coral reef (Challenger Mound), situated in the North Atlantic Ocean offshore Ireland, surprisingly revealed the presence of significant ice masses on Britain and Ireland since the start of the ice ages in the Northern Hemisphere (ca. 2.6 million years ago). Previously it was thought that, at that time, only in high latitude areas such as Canada, Greenland and Scandinavia, climate conditions were favourable for the development of ice sheets. In contrast, lower latitude regions, such as the British-Irish Isles were assumed to be ice-free much longer, with the earliest evidence of ice sheets on Ireland previously dated around 0.5 million years ago.”

“Through the chemical analysis of ‘ice-rafted’ grains in Challenger Mound (i.e. grains eroded by ice on land, which are then transported to the ocean by icebergs calving from the ice sheet and subsequently deposited on the ocean floor as the icebergs melt) their source area could be determined, pointing towards an origin on the islands of Britain and Ireland. In this way, a signal of repeated ice development on the British-Irish Isles could be traced back as far as ca. 2.6 million years ago.”

“Hence, for the first time it can be demonstrated that from the very start of glaciations in the Northern Hemisphere, climatic conditions were suitable to promote glaciations as far south as the British-Irish Isles. This finding challenges how researchers used to think about the extent of the earliest Northern Hemisphere ice ages, has significant implications for climate models and the mechanisms behind the Quaternary ice ages, in north-western Europe and beyond.”

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