13 March 2015

Source to Sink (+ video)

Posted by Nanci Bompey

By Lisa Strong

This is the latest in a series of dispatches from education officers aboard the JOIDES Resolution, a scientific ocean drilling ship currently on a two-month research expedition in the Bay of Bengal. Read more posts here.

It’s a valid question: Why are we studying the mountains by drilling into the seafloor?  The question came from a middle school student. We do live webcasts with schools and museums around the world while we’re on expedition on the JOIDES Resolution – a research ship that can drill core from the seafloor. On Expedition 354, we’re in the Bay of Bengal, drilling sediment cores from the Bengal submarine fan in order to study the Himalayas, which are about 3000 kilometers (1864 miles) north of us.

The primary reason why is that sediment eroded from the landscape can tell us something about past environments. But there is certainly sediment on land. The Foreland Basin, at the base of the Himalayas, collects sediments too, but it is subject to the same erosive processes that are eating away at the mountains. The layers of sediment that make it to the submarine fan have a better chance of staying intact – and so we drill for sediment cores, hoping for a more complete record of Earth’s past.

We’re especially interested in learning about the timing of the uplift of the Himalaya, the impact the rising mountains had on the development and strength of the Asian Monsoon, and how much influence that weathering and the massive erosion load had/has on the carbon cycle. The co-chief scientist, Christian France-Lanord, from CNRS – Université de Lorraine, France, likes to think of our inquiry as tracing the source to the sink. We’ve produced a 6-minute video to illustrate the Source to Sink idea.

– Guest blogger Lisa Strong is a video producer and education officer aboard the JOIDES Resolution.