Scientists have developed a new diagnostic tool that will enable better understanding of global climate patterns.
The development, by researchers from The University of Queensland, University of Canterbury (New Zealand) and Monash University, distinguishes between the causes of particles in glacial deposits – whether climactic or caused by rock avalanche – allowing for more accurate data to inform climate models.
Co-author of the study, UQ Professor James Shulmeister, says the development represents a breakthrough in the way climate change research is approached.
He says that while glaciers have been used as an early indicator of the extent and rate of global warming, there was previously an assumption that they always reflected climatic change.
“But there has been some debate on how much of the mountain glacier record represents climate change and how much relates to changes in glaciers resulting from rock avalanches onto the glaciers,” he said.
“Being able to determine whether a glacial advance is caused by a rock avalanche or by purely climatic factors enables us to ensure the climatic record from glacial deposits is accurate.