Indonesian ice fields could vanish within the next few years

Washington, Aug 15 (ANI): Ohio State University researchers who drilled through an ice cap perched precariously on the edge of a 16,000-foot-high Indonesian mountain ridge say that the ice field could vanish within the next few years, another victim of global climate change

The researchers drilled three ice cores, two to bedrock, from the peak's rapidly shrinking ice caps.

They hope these new cores will provide a long-term record of the El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon that dominates climate variability in the tropics.

"We were able to bring back three cores from these glaciers, one 30 meters (98.4 feet) long, one 32 meters (105 feet) long and the third 26 meters (85 feet) long," explained Lonnie Thompson.

While the cores are relatively short compared to those retrieved during some of Thompson's previous 57 expeditions, "We won't know what history they contain until we do the analyses."

A short 50-meter core previously drilled in 2000 through ice fields atop Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa yielded an 11,700-year history of climate.

This year's effort focused on several small and rare ice fields almost due west of the Andes on the other side of the Pacific - near a mountain called Puncak Jaya.

Along with the ice core, the team collected rainwater samples from locations ranging in elevation from sea level up to the site of the glacier.

Coupled with weather data garnered from 11 weather stations operated by Freeport-McMoRan, the isotopic composition of the rainwater samples will help the team interpret the climate history locked in the ice cores.

The drill site itself was hazardous. "The area was riddled with crevasses and lacked any substantial snowfall," Thompson said.

This meant that the team had to wear crampons - pointed metal cleats on their boots - to maneuver on the ice. Daily rainstorms in the area, complete with lightning, increased the risks at the drill site.

Four local tribes claim the ice fields as their own, are its Thompson said. "They believe that the ice is their god's skull, that the mountains arms and legs and that we were drilling into the skull to steal their memories," he said.

"In their religion they are a part of nature, and by extension they are a part of the ice, so if it disappears, a part of their souls will also be lost," he added. (ANI)

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