Retrieved ancient ice cores to help scientists assess risks of abrupt future climate change

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Washington, August 27 (ANI): A new international research effort on the Greenland ice sheet set a record for single-season deep ice-core drilling this summer, recovering more than a mile of ice core that is expected to help scientists better assess the risks of abrupt climate change in the future.

The project, known as the North Greenland Eemian Ice Drilling, or NEEM, is being undertaken by 14 nations and is led by the University of Copenhagen.

The goal is to retrieve ice from the last interglacial episode known as the Eemian Period that ended about 120,000 years ago.

The period was warmer than today, with less ice in Greenland and 15-foot higher sea levels than present - conditions similar to those Earth faces as it warms in the coming century and beyond, according to CU-Boulder Professor Jim White, who is leading the U.S. research contingent.

"While three previous Greenland ice cores drilled in the past 20 years covered the last ice age and the period of warming to the present, the deeper ice layers representing the warm Eemian and the period of transition to the ice age were compressed and folded, making them difficult to interpret," said White.

"Radar measurements taken through the ice sheet from above the NEEM site indicate the Eemian ice layers below are thicker, more intact and likely contain more accurate, specific information," he said.

"Every time we drill a new ice core, we learn a lot more about how Earth's climate functions. The Eemian period is the best analog we have for future warming on Earth," he added.

Annual ice layers formed over millennia in Greenland by compressed snow reveal information on past temperatures and precipitation levels and the contents of ancient atmospheres, according to White, who directs CU-Boulder's Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research.

Ice cores exhumed during previous drilling efforts revealed abrupt temperature spikes of more than 20 degrees Fahrenheit in just 50 years in the Northern Hemisphere.

The NEEM team reached a depth of 5,767 feet in early August, where ice layers date to 38,500 years ago during a cold glacial period preceding the present interglacial, or warm period.

The team hopes to hit bedrock at 8,350 feet at the end of next summer, reaching ice deposited during the warm Eemian period that lasted from roughly 130,000 to 120,000 years ago before the planet began to cool and ice up once again. (ANI)

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