Learning about climate from the ground

What does studying the ground teach us about the climate?

The earth under our feet contains lots of clues about what the climate in the past was like. This can help us learn about possible future changes.

There’s a lot more to the ground under our feet than the pavement!

There’s lots of stuff under the streets – from pipes carrying water and waste to cables delivering energy and the internet to our schools and homes. There might also be an underground railway under your feet! But as well as man-made objects, you might also find things that can tells us what the planet used to be like?

Fossils – such as woolly mammoth or sabre tooth cat remains – are incredibly valuable. They don’t just tell us what creatures on Earth were like thousands of years ago, they can also give us clues about the environment too.

Even the soil itself is packed full of clues about past climate changes. Let’s talk to a climate explorer who’s getting to the bottom of some climate conundrums!

Matt

Hi – I’m Matt. By looking at old rocks and soils, we can learn about what the world used to be like.

I’m especially interested in the Ice Age climate and how glaciers shape and change the landscape during a cold period of the natural climate cycle. Did you know England was once buried under miles of ice?

We can learn about this by looking at the landscape that all this ice carved out and the soils they left behind, like muds that formed in the bottom of lakes that were created when glaciers melted at the end of the last Ice Age.

As well as digging holes to find rock and soil samples, I use special equipment that can see through the ground and create images of what’s buried deep beneath my feet.

Sounds like a lot of fun! But how do you see through the ground – sounds like you’d need some X Ray Specs or lasers for that!

Well, not quite! We use something called a ground penetrating radar – it sends pulses into the earth. The way those pulses behave can tell us what’s down there.

The weather conditions over time can cause rocks and soil to behave in different ways – by studying really old samples we can understand some of the natural ways that climates have changed over millions of years. This helps in two ways…

It helps us learn what to expect when the earth changes naturally and how fast this happens, and also helps us see which changes are natural and which are new – caused by modern day effects such as pollution and deforestation.

I’ve travelled to lots of exciting places. I’ve scanned sand dunes in Morocco… explored volcanos in Spain… although they weren’t erupting at the time! And have also dug up sea sediment in the English Channel.

Really valuable work – thanks Matt!

Learning from our Earth’s history makes a lot of sense – after all the planet has been around for four and a half BILLION years – and humans have only been a tiny fraction of that! Climate explorers like Matt can help share that knowledge.

Next, we’ll be finding out more how studying the forests can help us learn more about the Earth’s climate… click here!

You can hear Marina Ventura’s Climate Explorers weekdays from 5pm on Fun Kids!

Get the series on your phone or tablet and listen whenever you like – at home or in the car!

…or you can listen here:

Marina Ventura: Kids Guide to Our Planet

The podcast exploring the environment, ecology, oceans and climates on our planet Earth.

 

Marina Ventura’s Climate Explorers with support from the Natural Environment Research Council.

Additional support thanks to Liverpool John Moores University, Manchester Metropolitan University, Met Office, and King’s College London.

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