Europe’s scientists in a hunt for the most ancient ice on Earth

DEAN LEWINS

A picture made available on 16 January 2012 shows Adelie penguins making their way towards the fast ice near Mawson's Hut in Commonwealth Bay, Antarctica, 15 January 2012.

Europe’s scientists in a hunt for the most ancient ice on Earth


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An EU-funded team of European scientists from ten nations is on a quest for the oldest ice on Earth in east Antarctica.

British scientists lead the team, with Swedes, French, and Germans also joining the team.

They hope the tiny bubbles of air trapped in one and a half-million-year-old ice can reveal valuable information for the Earth’s climate system. The team will drill 3 km in an area called Dome Concordia. In a previous expedition a decade ago and in the same region, scientists discovered ice that was 800,000 years old.

Their objective is to find out more about Earth’s ice age cycles, which happen roughly every 41,000 years. Each slice of ice allows the reconstruction of ancient climate conditions. The reason for the switch for colder to warmer periods is not precisely known to scientists. The current hypothesis is that there is a link with Earth’s orbit around the Sun.

The chemistry of the ice and the analysis of the air trapped inside the core of the ice reveals the levels of heat-trapping gasses that were once present in the atmosphere.

In turn, that allows scientists to improve modeling and predict with greater accuracy the evolution of the climate in the future.

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