Nature Geoscience. doi:10.1038/ngeo2275
Author: Thomas R. Kulp
Some modern microorganisms derive energy from the oxidation and reduction of arsenic. The association of arsenic with organic cellular remains in 2.7-billion-year-old stromatolites hints at arsenic-based metabolisms at the dawn of life.
Nature Geoscience. doi:10.1038/ngeo2277
Authors: Masato Mori, Masahiro Watanabe, Hideo Shiogama, Jun Inoue & Masahide Kimoto
Over the past decade, severe winters occurred frequently in mid-latitude Eurasia, despite increasing global- and annual-mean surface air temperatures. Observations suggest that these cold Eurasian winters could have been instigated by Arctic sea-ice decline, through excitation of circulation anomalies similar to the Arctic Oscillation. In climate simulations, however, a robust atmospheric response to sea-ice decline has not been found, perhaps owing to energetic internal fluctuations in the atmospheric circulation. Here we use a 100-member ensemble of simulations with an atmospheric general circulation model driven by observation-based sea-ice concentration anomalies to show that as a result of sea-ice reduction in the Barents–Kara Sea, the probability of severe winters has more than doubled in central Eurasia. In our simulations, the atmospheric response to sea-ice decline is approximately independent of the Arctic Oscillation. Both reanalysis data and our simulations suggest that sea-ice decline leads to more frequent Eurasian blocking situations, which in turn favour cold-air advection to Eurasia and hence severe winters. Based on a further analysis of simulations from 22 climate models we conclude that the sea-ice-driven cold winters are unlikely to dominate in a warming future climate, although uncertainty remains, due in part to an insufficient ensemble size.
Nature Geoscience. doi:10.1038/ngeo2276
Authors: Marie Catherine Sforna, Pascal Philippot, Andrea Somogyi, Mark A. van Zuilen, Kadda Medjoubi, Barbara Schoepp-Cothenet, Wolfgang Nitschke & Pieter T. Visscher
The ability of microbes to metabolize arsenic may have emerged more than 3.4 billion years ago. Some of the modern environments in which prominent arsenic metabolism occurs are anoxic, as were the Precambrian oceans. Early oceans may also have had a relatively high abundance of arsenic. However, it is unclear whether arsenic cycling occurred in ancient environments. Here we assess the chemistry and nature of cell-like globules identified in salt-encrusted portions of 2.72-billion-year-old fossil stromatolites from Western Australia. We use Raman spectroscopy and X-ray fluorescence to show that the globules are composed of organic carbon and arsenic (As). We argue that our data are best explained by the occurrence of a complete arsenic cycle at this site, with As(III) oxidation and As(V) reduction by microbes living in permanently anoxic conditions. We therefore suggest that arsenic cycling could have occurred more widely in marine environments in the several hundred million years before the Earth’s atmosphere and shallow oceans were oxygenated.
Nature Geoscience. doi:10.1038/ngeo2273
Authors: M. O. Patterson, R. McKay, T. Naish, C. Escutia, F. J. Jimenez-Espejo, M. E. Raymo, S. R. Meyers, L. Tauxe & H. Brinkhuis