University of South Carolina College of Arts & Sciences Marine Science Program School of the Earth, Ocean and Environment



Marine Science Program University of South Carolina 712 Main Street, PSC 108, Columbia, SC 29208

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Scher, Howie

Assistant Professor, Marine Science Program and Earth and Ocean Sciences

Ph.D. University of Florida. 2005

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PSC 519



My research focuses on the role of the oceans in the transition from very warm greenhouse climate conditions during the late Cretaceous and early Cenozoic (about 90 to 50 million years ago) to the present day glacial climate. Only 5% of geologic history contains evidence for continental scale ice sheets, emphasizing how unique this transition is. Deep-sea drill cores, taken from the sea bed over the last 40 years, store critical information about this long term cooling trend. I measure isotopic tracers of provenance contained in these sediments to understand past changes in critical components of the climate system such as ocean circulation, terrigenous inputs, and seawater chemistry. These insights into past climate provide valuable information about Earth's climate system, which is critical for accurately predicting future climate change.

Recent Publications:

Westerhold, T., Rohl, U., Wilkens, R., Palike, H., Lyle, M., Dunkley Jones, T., Bown, P., Moore, T., Kamikuri, S., Acton, G., Ohneiser, C., Yamamoto, Y., Richter, C., Fitch, P., Scher, H.D., Liebrand, D., and Expeditions 320/321 scientists (2012) Syntheses: Revised composite depth scales and integration of IODP Sites U1331, U1332, U1333, U1334 and ODP Sites 1218, 1219, 1220. Proc. IODP, 320/321: Tokyo (Integrated Ocean Drilling Program Management International, Inc.), DOI: 10.2204/iodp.proc.320321.201.2012.

Scher H.D., Bohaty S.M., Zachos J.C., Delaney M.L. (2011) Two-stepping into the icehouse: East Antarctic weathering during progressive ice-sheet expansion at the Eocene–Oligocene transition. Geology, 39(4): 383–386; doi: 10.1130/G31726.1.

Martin E.E., Blair S.W., Kamenov G.D., Scher, H.D., Bourbon E., Basak, C., Newkirk, D. (2010) Extraction of Nd isotopes from bulk deep sea sediments for paleoceanographic studies on Cenozoic time scales. Chemical Geology, 269: 414-431. doi:10.1016/j.chemgeo.2009.10.016

Scher H.D., Delaney M.L. (2010) Breaking the glass ceiling for high resolution Nd isotope records in paleoceanography. Chemical Geology, 269, 329-338. doi:10.1016/j.chemgeo.2009. 10.007

Scher H.D., Martin E.E. (2008) Oligocene deep water export from the North Atlantic and the development of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current examined with neodymium isotopes. Paleoceanography, 23, PA1205, doi:1210.1029/2006PA001400.

Scher H.D., Martin E.E. (2006) The timing and climatic influence of the opening of Drake Passage. Science, 312, 428-430.

Courses Taught:

MSCI 101: The Ocean Environment (Both General and Honors Sections)

MSCI 545/GEOL 545: Geological Oceanography

MSCI 553/GEOL 553: Marine Sediments

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Working with geophysicists from the University of Sydney Howie Scher is assessing the timing of water mass exchange through the Tasmanian Seaway relative to the tectonic evolution of the region and the major climate transition at the Eocene Oligocene boundary. Using a water mass tracer, neodymium isotopes, preserved in ancient marine sediments the research team has discovered that an increase in the width of the gateway coincides with a lower chemical gradient between the Indian and Pacific, indicative of more efficient zonal mixing in the Southern Ocean. These results agree with plate tectonic reconstructions before and after the opening of the gateway. The onset of these tectonic and oceanographic changes coincide with the abrupt appearance of ice sheets on Antarctica ca. 34 Ma.

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Using a sedimentary record deposited close to the outlet of drainage basins in East Antarctica and weathering proxies that are characteristic of the ancient bedrock of Antarctica, the first direct evidence for small high elevation ice caps preceding the major buildup of Antarctic ice sheets has been detected. The strong signal of chemical weathering ca. 33.9 million years ago provides the impetus to seek direct evidence for minor and climatically significant glaciations in the Eocene.