Far south and farther south, where winds are cold and screaming,
Waters churn, and deep below, old sediments lie dreaming.
A million years’ residuum of life and death and dust,
A library of ice ages reposed upon Earth’s crust.
Very finely teased apart, this elemental tale,
On barium and opal deep into the past we sail.
With all the evidence aligned, a pattern brightly blazes:
Descent into an ice age world proceeds in two key phases.
An orchestra with many players ‘tween warm-cold inflecting;
Tiny cells, abyssal flow, great winds … now, who’s directing?
Two Modes of Change in Southern Ocean Productivity Over the Past Million Years, Jaccard, Hayes et al., Science, 2013
This is one in a series of poems based on science news, written by Katherine Allen, a researcher in geochemistry and paleoclimate at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. “The Breathing Ocean” first appeared on Allen’s website on March 22, 2013.