Samples of sediment taken from the ocean floor of the North Atlantic Ocean have given researchers an unprecedented insight into the reasons why Europe’s climate has changed over the past 3000 years.
From the warmer climates of Roman times when vineyards flourished in England and Wales to the colder conditions that led to crop failure, famine and pandemics in early medieval times, Europe’s climate has varied over the past three millennia.
For the first time, researchers have been able to pinpoint why this occurs, and the answer lies far out at sea in the North Atlantic Ocean.
Scientists from Cardiff University have studied fossil remains of shell-bearing plankton and grains buried in sediments from the North Atlantic to determine what conditions were like in the ocean on timescales of 10-20 years over a 3000-year period.
Writing in the journal Nature Communications, the researchers found that during cold periods, icy-cold waters from the Arctic would flow south into the Labrador Sea in the North Atlantic, altering the ocean circulation patterns and potentially slowing down the currents that transport heat to Europe.
“Seawater can hold more heat than the air, so it can act like a large storage heater. As such, the oceans can store and transport vast amounts of heat and are hence key for modulating our climate. Interestingly, we find changes in the circulation and distribution of waters in the North Atlantic which would have impacted the transport of heat to Europe,” explains Dr Paola Moffa-Sanchez, from Cardiff University’s School of Earth and Ocean Sciences who led the study.
Read More: phys.org