During the first part of the journey, Prof. Christian Hübscher and a team of roughly 20 researchers will collect samples from the seabed in the Gulf of Mexico. On the basis of the sediment deposits, they will then reconstruct the development of the “Loop Current” – the curve the Gulf Stream makes between the Yucatán Channel and the Straits of Florida – over the last million years.
By examining the past data, they hope to be able to learn more about how the Current will look in the future. Will it change as a result of global warming? If so, will we in Europe also feel the effects of this change? In order to shed new light on this last aspect, the data will later be integrated into simulations that also take into account the North Atlantic.
In the second part, from March 29 to April 25, a team led by Prof. Christian Betzler and Dr. Thomas Lüdmann will analyze ocean floor sediments in the Straits of Florida in order to determine how the Gulf Stream influences the geological shelf and the growth of coral reefs in the Bahamas.
The geologists will also investigate the frequency of hurricanes in the region. For example, in 2005 Hurricane Katrina hit the East Coast of the United States, with devastating consequences. And just last year Hurricane Isaac’s heavy rains and storms caused widespread power outages in the New Orleans area. Will such events become more common in the face of increasing global warming?
“We’re testing to what extent the climate has impacted the frequency of hurricanes in the past. With the help of this data, we can better forecast how often tropical cyclones are to be expected in the future,” explains Prof. Betzler. The hurricane frequency over the last 1,000 years will then be documented in a high-resolution archive.