|Image credit: Freeimages / Frank Müller|
Widely used to infer past climates, isotope measurements from stalactites and stalagmites in caves can mislead researchers.To finish reading, click on "Cave Climate Conclusions Compromised".
They are among the most useful storytellers of earth history: speleothems, or cave formations. Scientists collect samples from stalactites and stalagmites, take them to their labs, and measure the fractions of stable oxygen and carbon isotopes found in their inclusions of crystals of calcium carbonate or calcite. From these crystal balls, the scientists look far into the past, envisioning climate change and long ages. What could be more straightforward? The data prove it.
A funny thing happens on the way to the lab. The isotopic fractionations become altered. Here’s what a team of speleologists (cave scientists) conclude from expeditions into a couple of caves in Hungary.