I am currently a few months in to my PhD at the National Oceanography Centre, where my research is focused on the connection between submarine mega-landslides (SML’s) and climate change. I am part of the Arctic Landslide Tsunami project, which involves 11 different organisations around the UK, working together to asses the risk to the UK from these events. The last major event occurred 8200 years ago, and is know as the “Storegga Landslide”, which was the subject of a Time-Team special last year, and responsible for obliterating the Mesolithic Doggerland community. This tsunami originated on the Norwegian continental slope, at an angle of less than 2 degrees, and is associated with one of the coldest periods of recent geological history, termed the “8.2 event”, during which time, temperatures were between 4-7 degrees below the current temperature ranges.
I am currently working on a set of marine sediment cores collected from the Eirik Drift to the south of Greenland (red dot on the map below), this is an important site as it is where the North Atlantic Deep Water forms, which is integral to the circulation system in the North Atlantic, and perturbations to this NADW formation are known to be associated with reduced transport of heat to Western Europe. Whilst we understand that this is normally a response to the melting of ice sheets, my research will be assessing whether the input of a large volume of muddy fluid (approximately 3500 km2) from the Storegga landslide could also have affected the thermo-haline circulation system, and will attempt to place large submarine landslides in the North Atlantic into a palaeoclimatic context.
Map to show the location of Eirik Drift and the currents contributing to its formation.
One of the growing concerns with regard to climatic change happening today, is whether global warming could destabilise these low angle slopes and cause more SML’s. Recent evidence indicates that the Shetland Isles and the North East coast of Scotland were inundated by a 20m wave, though this wave dissipated as it moved away from its source, it was still several metres high when it reached the South East Coast.
I am really excited about the materials and content for this MOOC, I look forward to seeing you all in the discussion forums over the next few weeks!