MAY 24, 2018 05:30 PM PDT

What really old ice can tell us

Right now, the farthest we can go back in time to analyze the history of our planet’s climate is 800,000 years. We do so with ice cores – layers of ancient ice that have trapped gasses in their bubbles. These gasses help us determine what the climate was like at specific moments in history – what were the temperatures, how was the atmospheric composition, etc. While 800,000 years is definitely a significant chunk of time, scientists are always pushing to go back farther, find older evidence. And now, following a lead from a study published in Geophysical Research Letters, we might have an ice core dating back 1 million years.

The study comes from the University of Washington and the University of Maine and points towards a location in the Allan Hills of Antarctica’s Blue Ice Area. The Allan Hills, located near the Trans-Antarctic Mountains, which separate East Antarctica from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, were disregarded years ago in the quest for ancient ice because scientists thought it had been disturbed, explains Science Daily.

"The Allan Hills has been an area of interest since the 1970s, when scientists started finding lunar and Martian meteorites that had struck Earth long ago. Now we're discovering its potential for old ice,” says Laura Kehrl, author of the recent paper.

To gather more information on this potential ancient ice, researchers used a radar system to send radio waves into the ice. By doing so, the scientists can construct an image of what the ice looks like below the surface based on ice layers that have different chemistries and densities. They then put this information onto a computer, which, using a complex algorithm, computed a model of glacier flow that suggested that the gold-prize million-year-old ice is roughly 100 feet above the bedrock.

A view of the Allan Hills. Photo: Discover Magazine

Once the researchers have the go-ahead to drill this core, they could retrieve this potentially really, really old ice and open up new doorways to understanding our climate history (ahem, and future). "There's a strong desire to push back the date of the oldest ice core record, to better understand what drives natural climate changes," said Kehrl. Additionally, explained Kehrl, such knowledge could inform scientists more about the history of the Ross Ice Shelf to learn whether and under what circumstances it has collapsed in the past.

Sources: Science Daily, Geophysical Research Letters

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
MAY 25, 2018
Microbiology
MAY 25, 2018
Rise of Antibiotic Resistance Linked to Climate Change
There are several factors blamed for the rise of antibiotic resistance, and now it seems that climate change and population density may play a role....
JUN 05, 2018
Earth & The Environment
JUN 05, 2018
Arsenic in your water?
A new study published in the journal Nature Communications suggests that the intensive pumping of groundwater is doing more than just emptying our aquifers...
JUN 11, 2018
Plants & Animals
JUN 11, 2018
Experts 'Shocked' by Sudden Deaths of Massive African Baobab Trees
The African Baobab tree has a reputation for being one of the largest and oldest trees on the continent. These trees sport iconic girthy trunks with widths...
JUN 13, 2018
Technology
JUN 13, 2018
Hemp Fabric Kills Staph Bacteria
Cloth made from hemp outperforms many other textiles in staph resistance....
JUN 20, 2018
Earth & The Environment
JUN 20, 2018
Meet these 99-million-year-old tiny frogs
Recently discovered amber from Myanmar is giving us new information on what life was like 99 million years ago. The amber, a tree resin known for preservin...
JUL 24, 2018
Chemistry & Physics
JUL 24, 2018
How Does It Taste? Want Some Salt (and Microplastics)?
Looks can be very deceiving: pristine, pure-like grains of sea salt can be the perfect trojan horse for the invasion of the omnipresent environmental villa...
Loading Comments...