Geochemical Analysis In Other Environments
By examining the chemical composition of sea water and polar ice, geochemists can draw conclusions and make predictions about the environment. Although natural weathering processes can take various trace elements into the sea or lock them into ice caps, scientists also find that by analyzing these compounds they can determine the impact which humans are having on the earth and possible climatological shifts, either induced by the activity of people—global warming—or the result of natural processes, such as ice ages. This field of study, known as low-temperature geochemistry, is a valuable diagnostic tool for understanding the impact pollution has on the environment.
Geochemists also make valuable contributions to understanding the history of the earth in general and human beings in particular. They perform isotopic analyses on cores drawn from rock strata or chemical breakdowns on ice cores to determine how the world's climate has shifted in the past. Specific events—the ash fallout of a large volcanic eruption like Mount St. Helens or Krakatoa, for instance, or records of the hydrocarbons released by factories in Europe and American during the Industrial Revolution—leave chemical traces in the sediments of sea and lake beds, and in the unmelting ice of the polar regions.
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Kenneth R. Shepherd