Origins of Europe’s climate discovered by UoM scientist in shrimp shells

  • International geographers found climate inidicators in shrimp shells
  • Dr Fletcher of UoM was part of the team
  • Findings suggest climate shifted more recently that previously thought

An international team of geographers has found indications that the climate we have in Europe today began 5000 years ago, hidden in the shells of mussel shrimps.

The experts, including Dr William Fletcher from The University of Manchester, identified a striking change in hydroclimatic conditions about five millennia ago, which corresponds with the establishment of climate mechanisms comparable to today’s North Atlantic Oscillation.

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The North Atlantic Oscillation is the name given to the differences in atmospheric pressure between the Icelandic Low to the north and the Azores High to the south. These are accompanied by changes in rainfall, especially in the western Mediterranean and northern Europe.

Dr Fletcher and other geographers and geoscientists from the Universities of Leipzig, Marrakesh and Iceland examined the shells of tiny freshwater crustaceans called mussel shrimps from Lake Sidi Ali in Morocco. 

“Our data clearly indicates an enduring change in the atmosphere and the ocean in the North Atlantic some 5000 years ago,” said Dr Fletcher. “At that time, large climate mechanisms began to change – in the western Mediterranean, phases of increasing winter rain coincided with iceberg surges in the subpolar North Atlantic.”

The results of this research have been published in the journal Climate of the Past.

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