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Antarctic ice core contains unrivaled detail of past climate
Date:2/5/2013

are characteristic of environmental conditions when the snow fell are trapped in the ice. The age of the ice is determined by identifying the chemical difference between winter snow and summer snow, and counting the years is much like counting tree rings to determine how old a tree is.

Samples of the ice core will be distributed to more than 20 U.S. university and national laboratories that make the measurements. Most of the measurements are known to be indicative of global atmospheric conditions, not just of the conditions at the remote location where the ice was collected.

The information from the project will be used to test and improve the predictions of how the current human-caused increases in greenhouses gases (e.g., carbon dioxide, methane) are altering the earth's climate.

"The combination of being able to identify individual years and new analytical methods that were not available on previous projects will greatly improve our understanding of how past changes in greenhouse gases influenced the global climate," said Kendrick Taylor, of the Desert Research Institute, in Reno Nevada, and chief scientist for the WAIS Divide project.

He added that it will take another two years to complete the analysis of the ice and publish the results.

The WAIS Divide research project has taken eight field seasons to prepare the remote field camp and collect the core. The weather and the remoteness of the field site limit field operations to 60 days a year. The unique ice-coring drill was designed and operated by the Ice Drilling Design and Operations group at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, through a collaborative arrangement with the Ice Drilling Program Office.

In addition to collecting 3,405 meters (11,160 feet) of a 12.2-centimeter (4.8-inch) diameter ice core, a new directional-drilling procedure was developed that allowed the team to drill through the wall of the main hole and collect a total of 285 meters (9
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Contact: Peter West
pwest@nsf.gov
703-292-7530
National Science Foundation
Source:Eurekalert  

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