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Weather was drier 6,000 years ago

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, March 25, 2008) – A stalagmite from a cave on northern Guam is providing clues to how the climate of Guam and the surrounding region evolved over the past 22,000 years, according to a news release from the University of Guam.

"The rock layers in cave deposits contain chemical clues to climate history, sort of like how tree rings do," said John Jenson, of the University of Guam's Water & Environmental Research Institute of the Western Pacific.

The stalagmite was collected by Jenson and his students in April 2005. Laboratory work on the stalagmite has been underway for the past two years at the University of Texas-Austin by a team led by geochemist Jay Banner of UT-Austin's Jackson School of Geosciences. The project is being funded jointly this year by the Jackson School and the Guam Hydrologic Survey Program, an ongoing program initiated by the Guam Legislature during the severe El Niño of 1997-1998.

"We're really pleased with the initial results of this project," said Gary Denton, WERI director. "Banner and his team are the best in the business, and we're really fortunate to have teamed up with them. We are now connecting with other scientists in the region who are doing other kinds of studies related to west Pacific climate history."

The initial results from the stalagmite are consistent with results from other islands in the Pacific, according to the news release, and suggest, among other things, that the regional climate was much drier some 5,000 to 6,000 years ago. The initial results from the Guam specimen will be presented this July at a scientific meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia.

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