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Climate records from the past

This 600,000 year-old stalagmite, measuring 2.5 meters long, was collected from The Devil’s Cave, in upstate São Paulo, in 2008. It is the oldest one of its type found in Latin America and one of the best climate records ever dated in the region.  Stalagmites are formed through the precipitation of calcium carbonate in the water that drips from the ceilings of grottos and caves.  The chemical composition of their carbonate provides climate information that is as valuable as that obtained from the ice samples from Greenland and Antarctica and the findings in ocean sediments.  This piece is being studied by Christian Millo under the direction of Francisco da Cruz. Both men are geologists at the Geosciences Institute of the University of São Paulo (USP). Labels mark the parts from which material has been taken for uranium-thorium dating.

Photo submitted by Francisco da Cruz, of the USP Geosciences Institute