Climate research nets $98,000

Rhawn Denniston, associate professor of geology, has been awarded a $98,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to study prehistoric hurricane activity in tropical northern Australia.

digest-climateThe research will be used to help develop materials for K–12 teachers on hurricanes and climate change, as well as serve as the subject for undergraduate theses for Cornell students.

Denniston’s research involves field work in caves in the remote Kimberley region of Australia, as well as laboratory work at the University of New Mexico and the University of Michigan. By determining the age of mud layers—the mud came from floods caused by ancient hurricanes—trapped at different depths within stalagmites, the timing and activity of hurricanes can be reconstructed. This information, in turn, may help improve our understanding of climate-related changes in hurricane frequency and intensity.

Denniston and two students obtained samples and analyzed them this past summer. He will present his initial findings at the annual Geological Society of America conference this October in a special session titled “Extreme Climate and Weather Events: Past, Present, and Future.”