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Proposal for Drilling in the Broad, Shallow Seas of Southeast Asia and Australia

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U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists are part of an international group proposing to drill sediment cores in the shallow seas of Southeast Asia and Australia to study the relation between climate and global sea-level change. The group seeks to conduct the drilling through the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP), scheduled to replace the highly successful Ocean Drilling Program (ODP) in late 2003.

The IODP has three components:

  1. The United States will operate a riserless ship, similar to the ODP drill ship Joides Resolution, for operations in the deep ocean.
  2. Japan will operate a huge, riser-equipped ship (Chikyu, weighing 60,000 tons, in comparison with the 10,000-ton Resolution) for coring along continental margins. (The riser, a string of pipe from the drill ship to the sea-floor wellhead, permits the circulation of drilling fluids and the use of blowout-prevention equipment. It will enable the ship to drill deeper into sediment along continental margins than a riserless ship.)
  3. Europe will manage Mission-Specific Platforms (MSPs)—drilling ships and barges chartered for specific drilling requirements in shallow water or remote areas not accessible by either the U.S. or the Japanese ship.

Terry Edgar (USGS, St. Petersburg, FL), Blaine Cecil (USGS, Reston, VA), Patrick De Deckker (Australian National University), Allan Chivas (Wollongong University, Australia), Pinxian Wang (Tongji University, People's Republic of China), and Karl Stattegger (University of Kiel, Germany) prepared a pre-proposal for MSP drilling in the shallow cratonic seas of Southeast Asia and Australia. IODP committees approved the pre-proposal and now require a full proposal, which is being developed after a meeting of Terry, Blaine, and Karl on August 5-7 in St. Petersburg, FL, and a visit by Karl to USGS headquarters in Reston, VA. Jack Medlin of the Office of International Geology is assisting the group in negotiations with nations in the study area.

A major goal of the project is to document the relation between climate and changes in global sea level from 18 south of the Equator to about 18 north of the Equator. The huge regions of the Southeast Asian and Australian continental crust that are submerged during interglacial periods (such as the present) are exposed during glacial times, causing major changes in climates of the region as well as climates at higher latitudes. Significant climate changes have been demonstrated in Kalimantan (Borneo) at the Last Glacial Maximum. Interbedded marine sediment, terrestrial sediment (ancient soils), and lakebed sediment offer a unique opportunity to unravel the intertwined histories of climate and sea-level change. Because land surfaces in the region are nearly flat, sedimentation there is particularly sensitive to sea-level changes, and evidence of rising and falling sea level is preserved in ancient soils and lakebed sediment that record sea-level lowstands and in marine deposits that record sea-level highstands. The opportunity to study climate and sea-level changes in a climatically sensitive tropical setting is not afforded anywhere else on Earth.

The positive response by the IODP committees that reviewed the pre-proposal was encouraging to us. The next meeting of the proponents is planned for November 15 and 16, after the East Asian Marginal Seas Meeting sponsored by the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Diego, CA.

Related Web Sites
Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP)
international scientific research program

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Gulf of Mexico Gas Hydrate

Tampa Bay Coring

North Carolina Coastal Erosion

Endangered White Abalone

Marbled Murrelets

Research Sediment Core Drilling Proposal

African Dust Microbiology

Outreach Tall Ships

Gulf of Mexico Teacher Workshop

Coastal Louisiana Interview

MRIB Makes Headlines

Meetings U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy

Numerical-Modeling Workshop

Staff & Center News WHFC Employees Farewell

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