Drilling 130,000 years of ice in Greenland may unlock secrets of climate history

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Washington, October 20 (ANI): An international group of scientists is all set to drill down through 130,000 years of accumulated ice in Greenland to unlock the secrets of climate history from what geologists call the Eemian period.

That was the last time the average global temperature was significantly warmer than it is today, and tiny bubbles trapped in the ice preserve key planetary conditions from that time period.

Scientists from 14 nations would be participating in the North Greenland Eemian Ice drilling project, or NEEM.

"Securing a pristine ice core dating back 130,000 years will provide a snapshot of conditions on Greenland when the average global temperature was 5 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than today," said Climate Central's Dr. Heidi Cullen.

"The Eemian provides a very realistic scenario of what we might see in the coming centuries," she added.

According to Dr. Cullen, the Greenland project employs a new field technique - cutting a thin slab of the ice core, melting it, and conducting a millimeter-by-millimeter analysis of the drip water.

When drilling ended for the 2009 summer season samples from one mile down had been retrieved, dating back over 38,000 years.

Scientists hope to reach Eemian ice in the summer of 2011.

Climate Central scientists calculate that in 2007, Greenland shed ice at a rate that, melted, equals the equivalent of draining San Francisco Bay - once a week - all year long.

Some climate models suggest that if greenhouse emissions are not reduced, Earth's average temperature could approach Eemian era levels when today's children reach their 70's and 80's.

Another key question the ice samples may help answer: how long would temperatures have to remain at those levels - or higher - to trigger a major rise in sea level?

Ice cores have been a tool for science since the Cold War, after it was discovered that air bubbles trapped in ice are science rich time capsules.

According to Jeff Severinghaus, of Scripps Institution of Oceanography, "The beautiful thing about an ice core is that it has all of these different indicators: atmospheric composition, mean ocean temperature, dust." (ANI)

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