Saturday, 20 December 2014

Russell Coope - the man who counted beetles, and discovered abrupt climate change.

Most people think climate change always happens slowly, but that is wrong.

Rapid climate change was discovered by accident by Russell Coope.





In the 1950s, Russell Coope was a young geologist who spotted something unusual in a quarry in the English Midlands.  This is his own description of what he found ...

"I happened, entirely by accident, to visit a Quaternary gravel pit in which were exposed the spectacular bones of mammoth, woolly rhinoceros and bison. 

Looking at their sediment matrix I was amazed to find enormous numbers of equally spectacular, if somewhat smaller, insect remains. 

I was hooked instantly! 

Particularly exciting to me was the fact that these insect fossils showed that Quaternary climates had changed abruptly. 

Thus, at times, fully glacial climates gave place to temperate interglacial conditions within the span of one human lifetime."

This discovery was the first time it had been realised that the climate can change really quickly.

Russell Coope died in 2011, but gave an interview that year......

The key word is "Ferocious".

So how does this work?

Different beetles like different temperatures.

By counting the fossil beetles and types of beetles in a set of layers of sand or gravel, Coope could tell what climate existed in that place, and how it changed.

Experts still use Russell Coope's method.

This fossilised beetle is well preserved.

Fossilised_diving_beetle.jpg

Scientists often identify fossil beetles from fragments.

This particular fossil is of a diving beetle found in the La Brea Tar Pits in California.


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