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New technique for analysing the chemistry of ancient oceans could reveal facts about early Earth

Calcium carbonate vein

Dr Rosalind Coggon talks about the importance of her technique in an audio interview <em>- News</em>

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Friday 5 February 2010
By Colin Smith

Scientists have developed a new technique that enables them to determine what the chemical composition of the ocean was like millions of years ago, which could provide them with a new tool for understanding early Earth, in research published today in the journal Science.

In the study, the researchers describe a novel method for reconstructing past ocean chemistry using calcium carbonate veins, which were formed millions of years ago under the sea floor. The researchers say understanding changes in the chemistry of oceans could help them to improve their knowledge about past climate, movements in the Earth’s crust and the evolution of life in the oceans.

The scientists studied core samples of calcium carbonate veins, which were recovered by scientific deep-ocean drilling teams as part of the Integrated Deep Ocean Drilling Program (IODP). These calcium carbonate veins were formed when warm seawater flowed through the ocean’s crust and reacted with basalt rock.

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In the audio interview (right), lead researcher Dr Rosalind Coggon, from the Department of Earth Science and Engineering at Imperial College London, talks about what she discovered when she analysed the veins and the possibilities opened up by the new technique.

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“Reconstructing past seawater Mg/Ca and Sr/Ca from mid-ocean ridge flank calcium carbonate veins”, Science, Friday 5 February 2010

Lead author: Rosalind M. Coggon (for a full author details please see paper)

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