What Are They Doing?
The goal of this project was to reconstruct the behavior of atmospheric circulation, specifically the Aleutian Low pressure system, over the past 10,000 years and to assess how its variability relates to past shifts in climate. In the summer of 2009, the research team recovered sediment cores and conducted monitoring at nine lake sites in southern Alaska. They used the physical and chemical characteristics of the samples they collected to reconstruct a record of past climate in this area. The data was compared with records across the Arctic and sub-Arctic to better understand climate variation overall. Information gathered as part of this project helped researchers better understand modern climate warming in the context of the long-term climate changes that took place in the region.
Additionally, the research team discovered that two of the lakes visited contain unique sediment layers called varves, which provide a lot of information about past climate changes. These are among only a few varved lakes presently known in Alaska.
Where Are They?
The team visited several lakes in both south-cental and southwest Alaska. Allison Lake (in the south-central part of the state near Valdez) is a glaciated watershed where the team extracted sediment cores 3-4 meters in length. In the Ahklun Mountains, in southwest Alaska, they visited Upper Togiak Lake and retrieved previously deployed instrumentation and collected more sediment cores. Both regions are known for mountainous terrain, alpine lakes, and moist coastal climate.
Caleb Schiff is a Senior Research Specialist at Northern Arizona University where he manages the Sedimentary Records of Environmental Change Laboratory. This will be his fifth field season in Alaska, and his primary duties are to help coordinate the field season and laboratory work. Mr. Schiff has pursued climate change research in Alaska, Norway, and Indiana and has participated in three previous PolarTREC collaborations. His interest in outreach and mentoring stems from past research experiences and the advisors he has come to know along the way. When not working in the lab, Mr. Schiff enjoys hiking, baking pizza in his homemade wood-fired pizza oven, and basking in the wonderful Flagstaff weather.
Heidi Roop grew up exploring the formerly glaciated landscape of Wisconsin, and today continues her love for studying glaciers and climate variability through research in Antarctica and alpine regions around the world. Spending the austral summer of 2010-2011 in Antarctica, it will be her second season working as a part of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) Divide project. When she is not in Antarctica, she works throughout the Sierra Nevada studying climate variability and hydrology for the United States Geological Survey.
Darrell Kaufman is a professor of geology and environmental science at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. Dr. Kauffman's research focuses on paleoclimatology and the geologic records of past environmental changes and he has conducted climate change research in Alaska for over 20 years. He and his students are currently focusing on records of past climate change and volcanic activity using sediment cores from lakes across southern Alaska.