3rd Annual Tees Valley Youth Climate Conference

On 15 November 2023, Teesside University’s School of Health and Life Sciences, spearheaded by its Geoscience cluster, hosted the 3rd Annual Tees Valley Youth Climate Conference. In total, 70 sixth-form students from across the region and their teachers spent the day reviewing the evidence for anthropogenic forcing of climate change and exploring a wealth of options for building sustainable societies in the future.

At the start of the day, Keynote Speaker, Rachel Murtagh, Nature Partnership Manager of the Tees Valley Nature Partnership reflected on significant recent progress in restoring the Tees Valley’s natural environment from the ravages of the industrial era but underscored the need for ongoing and concerted positive action.

“Engaging in nature-based solutions offers numerous opportunities to collaborate with the planet in adapting to and mitigating climate change. Simultaneously, these approaches promote greater biodiversity and enhance human well-being by providing increased access to green spaces.”

Our own TU Earth & Environment Researchers spent the rest of the morning providing the evidence and varied solutions for climate change and, in the afternoon, led sustainability workshops on topics including food systems, renewable energy, and climate change communication.

We welcomed local industry (e.g., Northern Gas Networks, Biffa Waste Management) and charitable trust (e.g., Tees Rivers Trust, Durham Wildlife Trust, Middlesbrough Environment City) representatives who shared their climate-positive agendas with students over lunch. Several TU Environmental Management MSc students presented climate science posters.

The 3rd Annual Tees Valley Youth Climate Conference was highly successful and we look forward to hosting another one next year. If you are interested in booking a place for your students, please contact Kathryn Howard at shlsrecruitment@tees.ac.uk.

Northumbrian Water’s ‘Restore and Regenerate’ Strategy: Paving the Way for Sustainable Environmental Management

On October 11, 2023, the TU Earth & Environment Research Group had the privilege of hosting Dr. Zoë Frogbrook, Head of Environment and Sustainability at Northumbrian Water. She unveiled ‘Restore and Regenerate,’ Northumbrian Water’s ambitious environmental management strategy spanning all the way to 2050.

Through this strategy, Northumbrian Water, in partnership with the Coal Authority, the Rivers Trust, and other NE environmental management organisations, are developing ground-breaking nature-based solutions that complement and potentially outperform traditional (end-of-pipe and hard engineering) wastewater management approaches.

During her talk, Dr. Frogbrook stressed the importance of environmental monitoring data to evaluate the effectiveness of nature-based solutions under development, such as those addressing nutrient (nitrogen and phosphorous) pollution in rivers and flood risk. She also emphasised the need to assess biodiversity at Northumbrian Water sites to establish a baseline for future improvement.

The TU Earth & Environment Research Group explored with Dr. Frogbrook the potential for  PhD funding opportunities through Northumbrian Water. There are also a wealth of potential research projects for our Teesside University students offering real-world employable skills to our future graduates. A partnership between Northumbrian Water and TU Earth & Environment Group promises to advance environmental sustainability within the water industry in the northeast. As Dr. Frogbrook aptly pointed out, ‘sustain’ implies maintaining the status quo, but Northumbrian Water and the TU Earth & Environment Group share a vision of progress to enhance the environment for future generations. There’s no time to stand still.

Visit to National Geographic Headquarters in August

On August 29th, Dr Lisa Baldini visited the National Geographic Society’s headquarters in Washington DC to provide an update on progress since her two-year National Geographic Explorer project began in December 2022. Phase I of the project involved expeditions to karst regions in Nigeria (in April), Gabon (in June) and Cameroon (in August) in search of cave stalagmites for palaeoclimate reconstruction. These were carried out in partnership with local researchers from several institutions in each country. Planning for the Phase II expeditions is currently underway. These will begin after the onset of the Nigerian dry season in February. Project Partner and NGS photographer, Robbie Shone and Lisa are currently pitching a potential National Geographic magazine article or documentary to be photographed/filmed during the 2024 Phase II expeditions.

Follow Lisa’s National Geographic Explorer Project on X (Twitter)   & Facebook.

New Publication in Nature – TU Press Release

Date of historic volcanic eruption wrong by 130 years? 

New research involving Teesside University has found the eruption date of a historic volcano is wrong by 130 years and that this miscalculation could impact our understanding of climate change.

The study, published in leading journal Nature on Thursday, 6 July 2023, argues that the Laacher See volcanic eruption in Germany took place 12,880 years ago – 130 years after the date previously reported.

The eruption of the Laacher See volcano is one of central Europe’s largest eruptions over the past 100,000 years.

The research team believe that having the wrong date impacts the ability to evaluate natural climate change in the past, impacting how scientists predict future, human caused, climate change.

Dr Lisa Baldini, Senior Lecturer in Environmental Science in Teesside University’s School of Health & Life Sciences, who co-authored the study, said: “A correct age for this eruption is critical because the volcanic material that was deposited across Europe during the event is used to date numerous important sedimentary archives of past climates.

“Getting the date wrong will impact on our ability to evaluate the drivers of natural climate change in the past, which is critical for developing models that accurately predict future, human-caused, climate change.”

The research team, led by Durham University and including scientists from Teesside University, University of Oxford, Royal Holloway University of London, and SYSTEMIQ Ltd, suggest that the eruption date may have been compromised by volcanic carbon.

They argue that volcanoes outgas carbon dioxide from the underlying magma chamber, which filters through the soil and is absorbed by any vegetation, including trees. This magmatic carbon dioxide has no radiocarbon in it, because it is ancient carbon that has been in the ground for millions of years. Incorporation of this dead carbon into the tree will produce a date which will be too old.

Professor James Baldini, of Durham University, who led the study, said: “Our new study notes that the recent date for the eruption does not consider dead carbon which is emitted by the volcano and is absorbed by trees. Therefore, the trees used in the Reinig et al. were contaminated by this volcanic carbon, producing an age that was around 130 years too old.”

“This perspective is supported by the presence of a very large sulphur spike found in the Greenland ice sheet with all the characteristics of the Laacher See eruption, dated 130 years after the new Reinig et al. date.

“The eruption, therefore, is still a viable trigger for the Younger Dryas Event.”

The Laacher See volcanic eruption was similar in size to the cataclysmic Mt Pinatubo eruption in 1991 (pictured).

The ash resulting from the eruption is widely used as a time marker in sedimentary sequences across Europe, so the timing of the eruption affects the reported timing of environmental change as reconstructed from these European lake cores.