School of Earth Sciences - Research Publications
Now showing items 1-12 of 426
Quantifying heavy metals sequestration by sulfate-reducing bacteria in an acid mine drainage-contaminated natural wetland
(FRONTIERS MEDIA SA, 2013-03-12)
Bioremediation strategies that depend on bacterial sulfate reduction for heavy metals remediation harness the reactivity of these metals with biogenic aqueous sulfide. Quantitative knowledge of the degree to which specific toxic metals are partitioned into various sulfide, oxide, or other phases is important for predicting the long-term mobility of these metals under environmental conditions. Here we report the quantitative partitioning into sedimentary biogenic sulfides of a suite of metals and metalloids associated with acid mine drainage contamination of a natural estuarine wetland for over a century.
Human Remains from the Pleistocene-Holocene Transition of Southwest China Suggest a Complex Evolutionary History for East Asians
(PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2012-03-14)
BACKGROUND: Later Pleistocene human evolution in East Asia remains poorly understood owing to a scarcity of well described, reliably classified and accurately dated fossils. Southwest China has been identified from genetic research as a hotspot of human diversity, containing ancient mtDNA and Y-DNA lineages, and has yielded a number of human remains thought to derive from Pleistocene deposits. We have prepared, reconstructed, described and dated a new partial skull from a consolidated sediment block collected in 1979 from the site of Longlin Cave (Guangxi Province). We also undertook new excavations at Maludong (Yunnan Province) to clarify the stratigraphy and dating of a large sample of mostly undescribed human remains from the site. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: We undertook a detailed comparison of cranial, including a virtual endocast for the Maludong calotte, mandibular and dental remains from these two localities. Both samples probably derive from the same population, exhibiting an unusual mixture of modern human traits, characters probably plesiomorphic for later Homo, and some unusual features. We dated charcoal with AMS radiocarbon dating and speleothem with the Uranium-series technique and the results show both samples to be from the Pleistocene-Holocene transition: ∼14.3-11.5 ka. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: Our analysis suggests two plausible explanations for the morphology sampled at Longlin Cave and Maludong. First, it may represent a late-surviving archaic population, perhaps paralleling the situation seen in North Africa as indicated by remains from Dar-es-Soltane and Temara, and maybe also in southern China at Zhirendong. Alternatively, East Asia may have been colonised during multiple waves during the Pleistocene, with the Longlin-Maludong morphology possibly reflecting deep population substructure in Africa prior to modern humans dispersing into Eurasia.
Assessing amino acid racemization variability in coral intra-crystalline protein for geochronological applications
(PERGAMON-ELSEVIER SCIENCE LTD, 2012-06-01)
Over 500 Free Amino Acid (FAA) and corresponding Total Hydrolysed Amino Acid (THAA) analyses were completed from eight independently-dated, multi-century coral cores of massive Porites sp. colonies. This dataset allows us to re-evaluate the application of amino acid racemization (AAR) for dating late Holocene coral material, 20 years after Goodfriend et al. (GCA56 (1992), 3847) first showed AAR had promise for developing chronologies in coral cores. This re-assessment incorporates recent method improvements, including measurement by RP-HPLC, new quality control approaches (e.g. sampling and sub-sampling protocols, statistically-based data screening criteria), and cleaning steps to isolate the intra-crystalline skeletal protein. We show that the removal of the extra-crystalline contaminants and matrix protein is the most critical step for reproducible results and recommend a protocol of bleaching samples in NaOCl for 48 h to maximise removal of open system proteins while minimising the induced racemization. We demonstrate that AAR follows closed system behaviour in the intra-crystalline fraction of the coral skeletal proteins. Our study is the first to assess the natural variability in intra-crystalline AAR between colonies, and we use coral cores taken from the Great Barrier Reef, Australia, and Jarvis Island in the equatorial Pacific to explore variability associated with different environmental conditions and thermal histories. Chronologies were developed from THAA Asx D/L, Ala D/L, Glx D/L and FAA Asx D/L for each core and least squares Monte Carlo modelling applied in order to quantify uncertainty of AAR age determinations and assess the level of dating resolution possible over the last 5 centuries. AAR within colonies follow consistent stratigraphic aging. However, there are systematic differences in rates between the colonies, which would preclude direct comparison from one colony to another for accurate age estimation. When AAR age models are developed from a combined dataset to include this natural inter-colony variability THAA Asx D/L, Glx D/L and Ala D/L give a 2σ age uncertainty of ±19, ±38 and ±29 year, for the 20th C respectively; in comparison 2σ age uncertainties from a single colony are ±12, ±12 and ±14 year. This is the first demonstration of FAA D/L for dating coral and following strict protocols 2σ precisions of ±24 years can be achieved across different colonies in samples from the last 150 years, and can be ±10 years within a core from a single colony. Despite these relatively large error estimates, AAR would be a valuable tool in situations where a large number of samples need to be screened rapidly and cheaply (e.g. identifying material from mixed populations in beach or uplift deposits), prior to and complementing the more time-consuming geochronological tools of U/Th or seasonal isotopic timeseries.
The role of the SST-thermocline relationship in Indian Ocean Dipole skewness and its response to global warming
(NATURE PUBLISHING GROUP, 2014-08-12)
A positive Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) tends to have stronger cold sea surface temperature anomalies (SSTAs) over the eastern Indian Ocean with greater impacts than warm SSTAs that occur during its negative phase. Two feedbacks have been suggested as the cause of positive IOD skewness, a positive Bjerknes feedback and a negative SST-cloud-radiation (SCR) feedback, but their relative importance is debated. Using inter-model statistics, we show that the most important process for IOD skewness is an asymmetry in the thermocline feedback, whereby SSTAs respond to thermocline depth anomalies more strongly during the positive phase than negative phase. This asymmetric thermocline feedback drives IOD skewness despite positive IODs receiving greater damping from the SCR feedback. In response to global warming, although the thermocline feedback strengthens, its asymmetry between positive and negative IODs weakens. This behaviour change explains the reduction in IOD skewness that many models display under global warming.
Treatment of Alkaline Cr(VI)-Contaminated Leachate with an Alkaliphilic Metal-Reducing Bacterium.
(American Society for Microbiology, 2015-08-15)
Chromium in its toxic Cr(VI) valence state is a common contaminant particularly associated with alkaline environments. A well-publicized case of this occurred in Glasgow, United Kingdom, where poorly controlled disposal of a cementitious industrial by-product, chromite ore processing residue (COPR), has resulted in extensive contamination by Cr(VI)-contaminated alkaline leachates. In the search for viable bioremediation treatments for Cr(VI), a variety of bacteria that are capable of reduction of the toxic and highly soluble Cr(VI) to the relatively nontoxic and less mobile Cr(III) oxidation state, predominantly under circumneutral pH conditions, have been isolated. Recently, however, alkaliphilic bacteria that have the potential to reduce Cr(VI) under alkaline conditions have been identified. This study focuses on the application of a metal-reducing bacterium to the remediation of alkaline Cr(VI)-contaminated leachates from COPR. This bacterium, belonging to the Halomonas genus, was found to exhibit growth concomitant to Cr(VI) reduction under alkaline conditions (pH 10). Bacterial cells were able to rapidly remove high concentrations of aqueous Cr(VI) (2.5 mM) under anaerobic conditions, up to a starting pH of 11. Cr(VI) reduction rates were controlled by pH, with slower removal observed at pH 11, compared to pH 10, while no removal was observed at pH 12. The reduction of aqueous Cr(VI) resulted in the precipitation of Cr(III) biominerals, which were characterized using transmission electron microscopy and energy-dispersive X-ray analysis (TEM-EDX) and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS). The effectiveness of this haloalkaliphilic bacterium for Cr(VI) reduction at high pH suggests potential for its use as an in situ treatment of COPR and other alkaline Cr(VI)-contaminated environments.
A composite annual-resolution stalagmite record of North Atlantic climate over the last three millennia
(NATURE PUBLISHING GROUP, 2015-06-11)
Annually laminated stalagmites can be used to construct a precise chronology, and variations in laminae thickness provide an annual growth-rate record that can be used as a proxy for past climate and environmental change. Here, we present and analyse the first composite speleothem annual growth-rate record based on five stalagmites from the same cave system in northwest Scotland, where precipitation is sensitive to North Atlantic climate variability and the winter North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). Our 3000-year record confirms persistently low growth-rates, reflective of positive NAO states, during the Medieval Climate Anomaly (MCA). Another persistently low growth period occurring at 290-550 CE coincides with the European Migration Period, and a subsequent period of sustained fast growth-rate (negative NAO) from 600-900 AD provides the climate context for the Viking Age in northern and western Europe.
The Role of Health Co-Benefits in the Development of Australian Climate Change Mitigation Policies
Reducing domestic carbon dioxide and other associated emissions can lead to short-term, localized health benefits. Quantifying and incorporating these health co-benefits into the development of national climate change mitigation policies may facilitate the adoption of stronger policies. There is, however, a dearth of research exploring the role of health co-benefits on the development of such policies. To address this knowledge gap, research was conducted in Australia involving the analysis of several data sources, including interviews carried out with Australian federal government employees directly involved in the development of mitigation policies. The resulting case study determined that, in Australia, health co-benefits play a minimal role in the development of climate change mitigation policies. Several factors influence the extent to which health co-benefits inform the development of mitigation policies. Understanding these factors may help to increase the political utility of future health co-benefits studies.
Does Lower‐Stratospheric Shear Influence the Mesoscale Organization of Convection?
(American Geophysical Union (AGU), 2021-02-16)
Organized mesoscale convection is important for many atmospheric phenomena and hazards, however the understanding of its governing mechanisms is incomplete. Theories explaining mesoscale organization rely on the interaction between convection outflows and lower‐tropospheric wind shear. Here a new mechanism is presented, where lower‐stratospheric wind shear is shown to influence mesoscale organization. The mechanism is linked to coupling between convection and gravity waves, with the stratosphere playing a role in shaping the tropospheric wave spectrum. The key result is that lower‐stratospheric shear creates a preference for organized systems propagating in the same direction as the shear vector by weakening the systems propagating in the opposite direction to the shear. This result has important implications for stratosphere‐troposphere interactions, numerical modeling, and understanding of convective organization in general.
On the Robustness of Annual Daily Precipitation Maxima Estimates Over Monsoon Asia
(Frontiers Media SA, 2020)
Understanding precipitation extremes over Monsoon Asia is vital for water resource management and hazard mitigation, but there are many gaps and uncertainties in observations in this region. To better understand observational uncertainties, this study uses a high-resolution validation dataset to assess the consistency of the representation of annual daily precipitation maxima (Rx1day) over land in 13 observational datasets from the Frequent Rainfall Observations on Grids (FROGS) database. The FROGS datasets are grouped into three categories: in situ-based and satellite-based with and without corrections to rain gauges. We also look at three sub-regions: Japan, India, and the Maritime Continent based on their different station density, orography, and coastal complexity. We find broad similarities in spatial and temporal distributions among in situ-based products over Monsoon Asia. Satellite products with correction to rain gauges show better general agreement and less inter-product spread than their uncorrected counterparts. However, this comparison also reveals strong sub-regional differences that can be explained by the quantity and quality of rain gauges. High consistency in spatial and temporal patterns are observed over Japan, which has a dense station network, while large inter-product spread is found over the Maritime Continent and India, which have sparser station density. We also highlight that while corrected satellite products show improvement compared to uncorrected products in regions of high station density (e.g., Japan) they have mixed success over other regions (e.g., India and the Maritime Continent). In addition, the length of record available at each station can also affect the satellite correction over these poorly sampled regions. Results of the additional comparison between all considered datasets and the sub-regional high resolution dataset remain the same, indicating that the overall quality of the station network has implications for the reliability of the in situ-based products derived and also the satellite products that use a correction to in situ data. Given these uncertainties in observations, there is no single best dataset for assessment of Rx1day in Monsoon Asia. In all cases we recommend users understand how each dataset is produced in order to select the most appropriate product to estimate precipitation extremes to fit their purpose.
Environment and Mechanisms of Severe Turbulence in a Midlatitude Cyclone
(American Meteorological Society, 2020-11-01)
A large midlatitude cyclone occurred over the central United States from 0000 to 1800 UTC 30 April 2017. During this period, there were more than 1100 reports of moderate-or-greater turbulence at commercial aviation cruising altitudes east of the Rocky Mountains. Much of this turbulence was located above or, otherwise, outside the synoptic-scale cloud shield of the cyclone, thus complicating its avoidance. In this study we use two-way nesting in a numerical model with finest horizontal spacing of 370 m to investigate possible mechanisms producing turbulence in two distinct regions of the cyclone. In both regions, model-parameterized turbulence kinetic energy compares well to observed turbulence reports. Despite being outside of hazardous large radar reflectivity locations in deep convection, both regions experienced strong modification of the turbulence environment as a result of upper-tropospheric/lower-stratospheric (UTLS) convective outflow. For one region, where turbulence was isolated and short lived, simulations revealed breaking of ~100-km horizontal-wavelength lower-stratospheric gravity waves in the exit region of a UTLS jet streak as the most likely mechanism for the observed turbulence. Although similar waves occurred in a simulation without convection, the altitude at which wave breaking occurred in the control simulation was strongly affected by UTLS outflow from distant deep convection. In the other analyzed region, turbulence was more persistent and widespread. There, overturning waves of much shorter 5–10-km horizontal wavelengths occurred within layers of gradient Richardson number < 0.25, which promoted Kelvin–Helmholtz instability associated with strong vertical shear in different horizontal locations both above and beneath the convectively enhanced UTLS jet.
Dating stalagmites in mediterranean climates using annual trace element cycles
(Nature Publishing Group, 2017-04-04)
Speleothems may preserve geochemical information at annual resolution, preserving information about past hydrology, environment and climate. In this study, we advance information-extraction from speleothems in two ways. First, the limitations in dating modern stalagmites are overcome by refining a dating method that uses annual trace element cycles. It is shown that high-frequency variations in elements affected by prior calcite precipitation (PCP) can be used to date speleothems and yield an age within 2–4% chronological uncertainty of the actual age of the stalagmite. This is of particular relevance to mediterranean regions that display strong seasonal controls on PCP, due to seasonal variability in water availability and cave-air pCO2. Second, using the chronology for one stalagmite sample, trace elements and growth-rate are compared with a record of climate and local environmental change i.e. land-use and fire, over the 20th century. Well-defined peaks in soil-derived trace elements and simultaneous decreases in growth-rate coincide with extreme annual rainfall totals in 1934 and 1974. One of which, 1934, was due to a recorded cyclone. We also find that bedrock-derived elements that are dominated by PCP processes, reflect a well-known period of drying in southwest Australia which began in the 1970’s.