Natural Sciences >> Other

Determining Past Environmental Conditions through Examination of Stalagmites

by Matthew Rhoades


Submitted : Spring 2014

Looking at the δ18Oc values in stalagmites gives us a picture of environmental conditions far into the past, and with great resolution and accuracy. Using an altered version of an equation developed by Jeffrey A. Dorale, we can use these values to determine the temperature of the cave and surrounding area. Then, by comparing these values to the known values for temperature we are able to determine whether or not temperature is the key contributing factor to stalagmite growth or if there are other factors which might play a larger role.

Based on the results obtained in this project, we were able to conclude that temperature is not the only or main factor that contributes to stalagmite development. Temperature, from the values obtained from the stalagmites, seemed to rise as we approached the last major glacial period, something which runs counter to common sense. Thus, it is believed that precipitation- in the form of rainfall- greatly contributes to stalagmite growth and the isotopic δ values.

The key motivating factor for this project is to better understand the mechanisms and conditions of our climate in the past and also, by extension, into the future. This data obtained here allows for a more accurate picture of our world as it was thousands of years ago. With a more precise understanding of our climate both locally and globally, we might also better understand our own impact on climatic conditions and perhaps use that information to diminish our negative impact on the global environment.



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Advisors :
Arcadii Grinshpan, Mathematics and Statistics
Philip van Beynen, Geography
Suggested By :
Philip van Beynen