Institute at Brown for Environment and SocietyIBES

Reconstructing Climate with Lake Sediments

James Russell

Indonesia supplies a substantial proportion of atmospheric water vapor, the planet’s predominant greenhouse gas. Therefore, the Indonesian region likely plays a key role in regulating global temperature. Currently, an international team of scientists led by James Russell is analyzing million-year old sediment cores from Indonesia’s Lake Towuti. By looking at how concentrations of different chemical markers in the sediment change with depth, the researchers will be able to develop a continuous record through time of how much surface runoff poured into the lake. This information is climatically interesting because the rate of runoff would have been directly related to the rate of rainfall. Since the waters of the Indonesia archipelago wield such a weighty influence on climate conditions the world over, Russell and others hope that sediments from Lake Towuti will help them gain a better understanding of historical climate patterns across the globe.

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