October 2, 2012

National Ice Core Lab Stores Valuable Ancient Ice

It’s a freezing cold day inside the National Ice Core Laboratory (NICL) in Denver, Colo., as it is every day of the year. That’s because the NICL is a facility for storing and studying ice cores recovered from the polar regions of the world. It’s minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit inside, so everyone is bundled up in ski parkas, insulated gloves and boots. And, saws are buzzing, as scientists from all over the U.S. are measuring and cutting pieces of precious Antarctic glacier ice to take back to their labs for research. While their research goals vary, all the scientists are here on this day for same thing – ice cores from the WAIS Divide Ice Core project. With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), project manager Mark Twickler and a team of scientists, engineers, and support personnel traveled to the bottom of the world to drill and bring back these ice cores, which are perfectly preserved records of the distant past. The team drilled down more than two miles to retrieve the oldest pieces of ice in an ice sheet that’s more than 70.000 years old. Twickler says ice core layers are like tree rings because each layer represents a year of weather. From the ice core layers, the scientists can learns all sort of information, from how rough the oceans were around Antarctica to how dusty it was in Australia.

credit:  NASA

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