Washington, Jan 24 : A team of US researchers has recovered the first section of a massive Antarctic ice core, which might provide the most detailed record of Earth's climate history over the past 100,000 years, including greenhouse gases.
The recovered ice core is 580-meter (1,900-foot) long, and is believed to be the first section of what is hoped to be a 3,465-meter (11,360-foot) column of ice, which might also provide a precise year-by-year record of the last 40,000 years.
The discovery was made by a team of scientists, engineers, technicians, and students from multiple US institutions, who are working as part of the National Science Foundation's West Antarctic Ice Sheet Divide (WAIS Divide) Ice Core Project.
While other ice cores have been used to develop longer records of Earth's atmosphere, the record from WAIS Divide will allow a more detailed study of the interaction of previous increases in greenhouse gases and climate change.
This information will improve computer models that are used to predict how the current unprecedented high levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere caused by human activity will influence future climate.
According to Kendrick Taylor, the chief scientist for the project, "The dust, chemicals, and air trapped in the two-mile-long ice core will provide critical information for scientists working to predict the extent to which human activity will alter Earth's climate."
The WAIS Divide core is also the Southern Hemisphere equivalent of a series of ice cores drilled in Greenland beginning in 1989, and it will provide the best opportunity for scientists to determine if global-scale climate changes that occurred before human activity started to influence climate were initiated in the Arctic, the tropics, or Antarctica.
The new core will also allow investigations of biological material in deep ice, which will yield information about biogeochemical processes that control and are controlled by climate, as well as lead to fundamental insights about life on Earth.
"We are very excited to work with ancient ice that fell as snow as long as 100,000 years ago. We read the ice like other people might read a stack of old weather reports," said Taylor.