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Digging for Answers to Climate Change

EU scientists working on the research project PROMESS1 have dug deep into the earth below the Mediterranean in the hope that the pre-historic sediment cores they've collected will offer new insight into climate change.

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EU researchers began their expedition off the Italian coast

Over the past decade, scientists have added to our understanding of climate change by studying frozen ice cores from the polar regions. Now, a team of scientists involved in the €3.6 million ($4.3 million) EU research project PROMESS1 (PROfiles across Mediterranean Sedimentary Systems) are hoping to extend that understanding using ocean drilling techniques.

The PROMESS1 team has collected 500,000-year-old sediment cores from the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea. These cores, which act like an archive of past climate developments, will allow scientists to reconstruct climate variations dating from pre-historic times, and hopefully, provide keys to better understand climate change now.

The project involves partners from France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

"The findings of the PROMESS1 project place European research on a par with the world leaders in marine geosciences, the US and Japan," said European Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin. "This research helps us to understand the Earth's situation and envisage scenarios to be taken into account by policy-makers."

Complementing ice core data

Between June 24 and July 22, the team of European scientists were on a drilling expedition in the Mediterranean, which took them from Brindisi, Italy, to Barcelona, Spain, collecting long sediment cores of up to 300 meters. The data collected from the cores will be compared with data provided from ice core drilling projects.

Gefrorenes Klimaarchiv

A climate researcher extracts a frozen ice core

Last month, the European Commission presented the latest results of its ice core project in Antarctica (EPICA). Scientists there brought to the surface a 740,000-year-old ice core -- the oldest ever analyzed. The results will feed into computer models used to predict future climate changes.

EU climate change researchers have found that over the last 740,000 years, the Earth experienced eight ice ages, and eight warmer periods. In the last 400,000 years, the warm periods have had a temperature similar to that of today. However, carbon dioxide levels, which are known to contribute to global warming, are the highest they've been in the last 440,000 years.

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