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Bruce Yardley appointed Chief Geologist

Bruce Yardley (Leeds University) has been appointed Chief Geologist by The Radioactive Waste Management Directorate (RWMD) of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA).

Chartership news

Chartership Officer Bill Gaskarth reports on a projected new logo for use by CGeols, advice on applications and company training schemes

Climate Change Statement Addendum

The Society has published an addendum to 'Climate Change: Evidence from the Geological Record' (November 2010) taking account of new research

Cracking up in Lincolnshire

Oliver Pritchard, Stephen Hallett, and Timothy Farewell consider the role of soil science in maintaining the British 'evolved road'

Critical metals

Kathryn Goodenough* on a Society-sponsored hunt for the rare metals that underpin new technologies

Déja vu all over again

As Nina Morgan Discovers, the debate over HS2 is nothing new...

Done proud

Ted Nield hails the new refurbished Council Room as evidence that the Society is growing up

Earth Science Week 2014

Fellows - renew, vote for Council, and volunteer for Earth Science Week 2014!  Also - who is honoured in the Society's Awards and Medals 2014.

Fookes celebrated

Peter Fookes (Imperial College, London) celebrated at Society event in honour of Engineering Group Working Parties and their reports

Geology - poor relation?

When are University Earth Science departments going to shed their outmoded obsession with maths, physics and chemistry?

Nancy Tupholme

Nancy Tupholme, Librarian of the Society and the Royal Society, has died, reports Wendy Cawthorne.

Power, splendour and high camp

Ted Nield reviews the refurbishment of the Council Room, Burlington House

The Sir Archibald Geikie Archive at Haslemere Educational Museum

You can help the Haslemere Educational Museum to identify subjects in Sir Archibald Geikie's amazing field notebook sketches, writes John Betterton.

Top bananas

Who are the top 100 UK practising scientists?  The Science Council knows...

Last forests of the Mesozoic

Forests of Araucaria covered most of the vegetated parts of the planet during the Cretaceous.

Antarctic forests may be about to make a comeback, according to new research from Royal Holloway, University of London, published this week.

Geoscientist online, 08 March 2012

A comprehensive database of fossilised Cretaceous forests has been compiled for the first time, allowing scientists to create maps of 100 million year-old forests. The maps have provided the most accurate picture yet of a world where atmospheric carbon was at levels of at least 1000 parts per million (ppm).

The Cretaceous period, which lasted from around 145 to 65 million years ago, was one of relatively warm temperatures and high sea levels compared to the present day, and culminated in the famous K/T mass extinction, which saw off the dinosaurs as well as 77% of species.

Several thousand Cretaceous forest sites have been discovered, but their data have never before been brought together in one place. The research, published in the journal Geology, is led by Royal Holloway, University of London PhD student Emiliano Peralta-Medina, who is studying Cretaceous climates as an analogue for future global warming. It provides an insight into the effects of extremely high concentrations of atmospheric CO2 on fauna.

“Our research shows that weird monkey puzzle forests covered most of the planet, especially in the steamy tropics” he told Geoscientist. “At mid-latitudes, there were dry cypress woodlands, and near the North Pole, it was mostly pines.”

This changed towards the end of the Period, when “flowering trees similar to magnolias took off, bringing colour and scent to the world for the first time”.

The study also looked at the width of tree rings from the period, revealing that Cretaceous trees grew at twice the rate of modern trees, with the fastest growth occurring at the poles.

“Some of our fossil trees from Antarctica had rings more than two millimetres wide on average” says co-author Dr Howard Falcon-Lang. “Such a rate of growth is usually only seen in trees growing in temperate climates. It tells us that, during the age of dinosaurs, polar regions had a climate similar to Britain today.”

Atmospheric carbon levels are currently at 393 ppm – a long way off from Cretaceous levels. But the researchers estimate that it will only take us another 250 years to reach 1000 ppm, if concentrations continue to rise unabated.

“If that happens” says Dr Falcon-Lang, “we could see a return of forests to Antarctica. However, it’s unlikely that dinosaurs will be making a comeback.”

  • Peralta-Medina, E, Falcon-Lang, H J, 2012: Cretaceous forest composition and productivity inferred from a global fossil wood database. Geology 40 (3), in press