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Ancient Hawaiian glaciers reveal clues to global climate impacts
Date:8/5/2010

CORVALLIS, Ore. Boulders deposited by an ancient glacier that once covered the summit of Mauna Kea on the island of Hawaii have provided more evidence of the extraordinary power and reach of global change, particularly the slowdown of a North Atlantic Ocean current system that could happen again and continues to be a concern to climate scientists.

A new study has found geochemical clues near the summit of Mauna Kea that tell a story of ancient glacier formation, the influence of the most recent ice age, more frequent major storms in Hawaii, and the impact of a distant climatic event that changed much of the world.

The research was published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters by scientists from Oregon State University, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, University of British Columbia and U.S. Geological Survey. The work was supported by the National Science Foundation.

"Mauna Kea had a large glacial ice cap of about 70 square kilometers until 14,500 years ago, which has now all disappeared," said Peter Clark, a professor of geosciences at OSU. "We've been able to use new data to determine specifically when, where and most likely why the glacier existed and then disappeared."

Mauna Kea, at 13,803 feet above sea level, is in a sense the tallest mountain in the world because it rises 30,000 feet from the sea floor. Dormant for thousands of years, it once featured a large glacier on its massive peak at the height of the last ice age about 21,000 years ago. As the ice age ended and the global climate warmed, the glacier began to disappear.

However, the new research found that the glacier on Mauna Kea began to re-advance to almost its ice age size about 15,400 years ago. That coincides almost exactly with a major slowdown of what scientists call the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation, or AMOC, in the North Atlantic Ocean.

The AMOC is part of a global ocean circulation system that car
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Contact: Peter Clark
clarkp@geo.oregonstate.edu
541-737-0787
Oregon State University
Source:Eurekalert

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