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Journey to the bottom of the ocean

A team of scientists from the University of St Andrews are set to dig deep into the icy waters north of Iceland to look for clues of past climate change.

The team of four will set off for Iceland this weekend as part of a 12.6million euro project aimed at improving the quality of climate records spanning the last 1000 years. Dr Bill Austin and his team from the University’s School of Geography and Geosciences will spend 10 days at sea on an Icelandic research vessel as part of an international team investigating ocean sediments that have accumulated over the past 100 decades.

The work is funded by the new EU Framework VI project Millennium, a 4-year project involving 39 European partner institutions including the University of St Andrews. Dr Austin is co- ordinator of the marine element of the project.

Dr Austin said: “An important debate in climate science concerns the question of how unusual the rapid and steep ‘global warming’ during the 20th and 21st centuries has been when compared to long- term natural climate variability. Unfortunately, we don’t yet know enough about the natural variability of climate over the last millennium and the uncertainty in climate reconstructions is still large over this timescale when compared to ‘global warming’ over the last century. We are working to improve the quality of climate records which span the last 1000 years, so that we can determine with greater certainty the natural variability of the climate system.”

The expedition will recover sediment records from the north Icelandic shelf sea, a region ‘sensitive’ to fluctuations in the climate system, in order to capture this long-term natural variability and attempt to reconstruct the variability in heat transport to the high northern latitudes.

Dr Austin continues: “This same system of heat transfer through Atlantic Ocean currents plays a key role in the British climate system, so understanding its natural variability is extremely important and can help us to prepare for change in the future.”

Dr Austin will be joined by Dr Alix Cage, who graduated with a PhD from the University of St Andrews this week; Fiona Hibbert, a new PhD student and Helen Beddow- Twigg, an undergraduate student at St Andrews.

ENDS

NOTE TO EDITORS:

THE RESEACHERS ARE AVAILABLE FOR INTERVIEW: CONTACT DR BILL AUSTIN, e-mail: bill.austin@st- andrews.ac.uk OR TEL: 01334 463988.

NOTE TO PICTURE EDITORS:

IMAGES OF THE TEAM PREPARING FOR THEIR DEPARTURE ARE AVAILABLE FROM THE PRESS OFFICE – CONTACTS BELOW.

Issued by Beattie Media – www.beattiegroup.com on behalf of the University of St Andrews

Contact Gayle Cook, Press Officer on 01334 467227 / 462529, mobile 07900 050 103, or email gec3@st- andrews.ac.uk

Ref: Iceland 230606.doc

View the latest University press releases at http://www.st- andrews.ac.uk

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