UB and Auburn University will Collaborate in a Study of the Paleoclimatology of Belize

The University of Belize through the Natural Resource Management Program from the Faculty of Science and Technology will collaborate with Auburn University, Alabama USA, in a study to reconstruct the precipitation and tropical cyclone history of Belize. This will be done by obtaining stalagmite oxygen isotope ratio (d18O) records. These records offer a unique opportunity to reconstruct the long-term history of precipitation variability and tropical cyclone (TC) activity in Belize, extending beyond the instrumental record and over glacial to interglacial time scales. Belize represents an ideal location within the Caribbean for investigating the history of TCs and precipitation variability affecting the western tropical Atlantic. In the 152-year period from 1864 to 2016, Belize was hit by over 61 TCs. Belize, furthermore, has extensive cave systems with hundreds of potentially suitable stalagmite specimens for paleoclimate research.

These paleoclimate records will:

  1. Provide quantitative estimates of past rainfall and TC variability in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico regions,
  2. Test the relationship between rainfall variability and shifts in the mean Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ),
  3. Investigate the role of ENSO, tropical sea surface temperatures and tropical cyclones in driving climate regimes in the northern Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico regions;
  4. Investigate precipitation and tropical cyclone variability during and preceding human habitation in Mesoamerica, and finally;
  5. Provide estimates of the sensitivity of Caribbean hydrology to changes in orbital forcing and radiative forcing by greenhouse gases.

The study will be led by Dr. Martin Medina Elizalde and Dr. David King from Auburn University and support will be provided by Mr. Joaquin Magaña and Dr. Abel Carrias from UB and Mr. Josué Ramos from the National Institute of Culture and History (NICH).

The University of Belize takes the opportunity to congratulate biology student Mario Tuyul for his selection to participate in the study. Mario will receive a research fellowship valued at $4,800 BZE dollars through the project to fully fund the completion of his Undergraduate Research Thesis required for graduation from the Biology program at UB; as well as, to receive sample and data collection training in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Under the supervision of Mr. Magaña, Mario will execute thesis work which includes identifying and collecting suitable stalagmites, preparing and shipping stalagmites to Auburn University for isotope analysis and performing monthly visits to Actun Coh Cave to collect dripwater and groundwater samples and monitor temperature, relative humidity and a number of other variables, among other activities.

Related to the project, the University of Belize welcomes the visit of Ms. Fernanda Lases, a Mexican research counterpart that will join the UB team on December 14th and 15th 2017, to collect samples and to set up monitoring devices inside Actun Coh Cave.

The University of Belize embraces the opportunity to collaborate in these types of projects and would like to thank Auburn University and NICH for partnering with UB to perform this study. Special thanks are extended to Dr. John Morris, Director of NICH, for his unwavering support for the study.

For further information on the study contact Mr. Joaquin Magaña ([email protected]) and for information on the Research Fellowship contact Dr. Abel Carrias ([email protected]).