Australia to recover longest continuous ice core in Antarctica
Australian Antarctic Division researchers to work 8-hour shifts to retrieve the world’s longest ice core
2021-09-29T07: 45: 00 + 10: 00
Video: Australian Antarctic Division
Answers to the global climate crisis could be discovered in a 2.8-kilometer pole of million-year-old ice that is expected to be mined from Antarctica and returned to research labs in Tasmania for atmospheric testing.
Researchers from Australia’s Antarctic Division in Tasmania designed and built a 400-kilogram drill rig for the million-year-old ice core project, capable of operating in temperatures of minus 55 degrees.
It will dig through 2.8 kilometers of ice, said to be up to 1.5 million years old, to extract three-meter sections of ice, or ice cores, at any time.
Up to 8 tonnes of ice will then be brought back to the research labs for AAD researchers to extract data and information on past temperatures, sea ice levels and wind patterns in Antarctica.
It will also be used to answer a “long-standing mystery” in Antarctic research on the frequency of ice ages.
The project is part of this year’s Antarctic research season, which has been dubbed the most ambitious season ever undertaken by the AAD, with 500 scientists and up to 800 tonnes of cargo to be shipped to Antarctica.
Australian Antarctic Division Chief Scientist Nicole Webster said the Million Year Ice Core Project is an incredible milestone for climate research.
She said the layers of the ice core are like “newspaper pages”, where tiny air bubbles trapped in the ice core contain atmosphere and other particles that existed at the time. precise.
This atmosphere can be tested for things like the frequency and intensity of volcanic eruptions, dust levels, and past temperatures.
“The Antarctic ice sheet is formed by layers of snow that compress into ice over time and at depth. The chemical traces and particles trapped in the ice will provide data on how the atmosphere appeared to that time, ”said Dr. Webster said.
“This will provide data not only on how the climate has looked in the past, but it will also allow us to understand and predict how the climate might actually work in the future.”
Dr Webster said the ice core will also allow researchers to find answers to the mystery of the Ice Age.
“A million years ago, we saw changes in the periodicity of ice changes. Once the Ice Age occurs every 41,000 years, but about a million years ago, it is passed an ice age every 100,000 years.
“Currently, we don’t understand why this happened. One theory suggests that the decline of carbon dioxide levers in the atmosphere actually caused the change in frequency of ice ages. This million-dollar ice core years will provide us with the cold hard data to allow us to test that theory. ”
Dr Webster said the project started over ten years ago and it would take another five years to analyze the data and write a final report.
“The international ice core community came together over ten years ago and was truly united in their thinking that this recovery of the world’s oldest ice was a critical scientific building block for the future,” said Dr. Webster.
“The oldest current ice core is around 8000 years old, drilled by Europeans only a few years ago at a location quite similar to where we are drilling now. Our geophysical surveys have really tried to locate a particular area in the ice. where we can expect to exceed 1.5 million years. “
The location, called Little Dome Sea, is 12.00 kilometers from AAD’s Casey Research Station and is at an elevation of 3,200 meters above sea level.
Australian Antarctic Division personnel will work eight-hour shifts in minus 33 degrees to extract the 8 tons of ice.
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