Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Ancient Rainfall, Carved in Stone

"Stalactites grow from cave ceilings not as dull cones but often sporting elegant corrugations. In Physical Review Letters, two Italian researchers now explain these mysterious, wavy patterns using standard fluid mechanics. Their theory shows that the horizontal ripples form because spatially periodic patterns arise in the rate of mineral deposits from the water flowing down the stalactite. Starting from this model, climate scientists might in the future use stalactite surface structure to reconstruct variations in precipitation patterns over tens of thousands of years."Ancient Rainfall, Carved in Stone