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What We Learn from Ocean Drilling
Scientific ocean drilling has yielded many significant and exciting discoveries over four decades of expeditions.
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Ocean drilling has:
• Confirmed the theories of plate tectonics and continental drift.
• Altered our thinking about the formation of geologic hazards like earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis.
• Discovered methane, in the “frozen” form of hydrates, in sediments below the ocean, and confirmed that they exist worldwide.
• Discovered a vast and active biosphere of microbes living deep below the seafloor, far deeper than scientists ever predicted life could exist.
• Provided major insights into the paleoclimate record—the changes to our global climate that have occurred over the past 100 million years and more.
For example, core samples recovered from the seafloor beneath the Arctic Ocean revealed that 55 million years ago the Arctic region had a subtropical climate. Scientists continue to analyze paleoclimate findings to better understand how ecosystems will respond to future global warming.
“Sea sediments reveal how much ice existed in the world and hint at past temperatures and weather patterns. Ice cores also provide a glimpse of past temperatures and preserve tiny bubbles of ancient atmosphere. Coral, tree rings, and cave rocks record cycles of drought and rainfall. Each piece of this complex puzzle must be put together to give us a picture of Earth’s climate history.
Scientists’ efforts to explain the paleoclimate evidence—not just the when and where of climate change, but the how and why—have produced some of the most significant theories of how the Earth’s climate system works.”