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DECC and Geological Survey Ireland Support Irish Science Participation in Ocean Research by David Hardy (Marine and Coastal Unit)

DECC and Geological Survey Ireland Support Irish Science Participation in Ocean Research by David Hardy (Marine and Coastal Unit)


An Irish scientist, Weimu Xu of UCD, recently participated in IODP Expedition 396 “Mid-Norwegian Continental Margin Magmatism” – a two month expedition to study regionally significant volcanic deposits offshore Norway.

IODP stands for ‘International Ocean Discovery Program’, a global marine research collaboration that explores Earth’s history and dynamics through targeted seafloor drilling and recovery of rocks and sediments. Ireland participates in this planet-wide endeavour through a European consortium (ECORD); funding for Irish participation is provided by DECC, with Geological Survey Ireland providing management and scientific input. IODP expeditions are designed to address challenging Earth Science questions of significant societal impact; and explore areas such as climate and ocean change, geohazards, the deep biosphere & deep geological processes and their impact on earth’s surface environment.

Exp. 396 was designed to study the mechanisms that generated large volumes of volcanic material in this area approximately 56 million years ago. Associated with this volcanic activity was a rapid release of greenhouse gases which contributed to the development of a high temperature climate; studying this geological record of climate change will enhance the ability to predict future change arising from changes in CO2 concentrations. Secondary objectives of the expedition involve documenting the development of ocean currents and the potential to use regional volcanic rocks to permanently sequester large quantities of CO2 through mineralisation.

Exp. 396 was undertaken on the JOIDES Resolution, a 143m US research vessel dedicated to scientific ocean drilling. The expedition ran from 6 August to 6 October 2021, with all scientific objectives being met. This was achieved despite encountering some significant weather events and wave conditions of up to 10m. Weimu participated as part of a reduced science party onboard and following a quarantine period – required to minimise any risk from COVID19.

Weimu thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to work onboard during such a successful expedition and eagerly awaits future onshore sampling at the European IODP Core Store at Bremen. Her post-cruise research will apply paleobotany (fossilised plant remains) and geochemistry analysis, with the aim to constrain volcanic activity and associated carbon degassing and changing atmospheric conditions; and establish potential links to climatic warming, enhanced water cycles and changing global weathering rates.

Photo 1 (above): JOIDES Resolution, offshore Norway (c. Peter Betlam/IODP)


Photo 2: ​ Exp. 396 drill sites

(c. IODP)

​ Photo 3: Weimu Xu, onboard Exp. 396,

providing core descriptions (c. Weimu Xu).