Scientists hope 2,000-year-old ice holds clues to climate change

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Polar scientists who retrieved ice samples from the Antarctic say they are on the verge of unlocking 2,000 years of climate records offering clues to how global warming will affect our future.

An international team travelled to Antarctica’s Aurora Basin in a five-week project that began last December, to drill for ice samples needed to bridge a gap in knowledge of temperature changes over the last 20 centuries.

Using the latest technology to probe the secrets of the past, the scientists hope to gain information to improve climate models and give a sense of normal frequency and patterns now seen in extreme events such as droughts, cyclones and floods.

“The papers that will result from this project can inform and improve our climate models to improve our knowledge of what climate has done in the recent past,” said Nick Gales, chief scientist of the Australian Antarctic Division in Tasmania.

“That will greatly assist our ability to project climate change,” he told Reuters on Thursday.

The main ice core retrieved by the scientists, which is 303 metres (994 feet) long, will provide annual climate records for the past 2,000 years.

Two smaller cores, of 116 m. (381 feet) and 103 m (338 feet)in length, spanning the past 800 to 1,000 years, will provide extra ice for large-volume analyses of chemicals.

“Just to go out there and successfully drill down several hundred metres of Antarctic ice core within a season and bring it all back is a really major achievement in itself,” Gales said.

Two tonnes of ice core sections have now been distributed to ice core laboratories around the world for analysis.

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