The Oldest Ice on Earth May Be Hiding 1.5 Miles Beneath Antarctica

Scientists on their method to Dome C near the Concordia station on the Antarctic Plateau in Antarctica.

Credit: Yann Arthus-Bertrand by means of Getty Images

European researchers searching for a few of the oldest ice on the world have actually housed in on a specific area in Antarctica, where they will drill more than 1.5 miles (2.7 kilometers) listed below the surface area of the ice.

Over the next 5 years, the “Beyond EPICA-Oldest Ice” objective will operate at a remote area called “Little Dome C” to begin drilling for ice up to 1.5 million years of ages, the group revealed today (April 9) at the conference of the European Geosciences Union in Vienna, Austria.

“Ice cores are unique for geosciences because they are an archive of the paleo-atmosphere,” stated Beyond EPICA’s planner Olaf Eisen of the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany. [Antarctica: The Ice-Covered Bottom of the World (Photos)]

From examining gas bubbles, particles and particles caught in thin layers of ancient ice, researchers can rebuild co2 levels, temperature level information and other environment indications over an extended period of time. A significant objective of this task will be to comprehend why the cycle of Earth’s glacial epoch altered in the far-off past.

Field camp at the selected drill site Little Dome C in Antarctica, where researchers hope to find 1.5-million-year-old ice.

Field camp at the chosen drill website Little Dome C in Antarctica, where scientists wish to discover 1.5-million-year-old ice.

Credit: Luca Vittuari/PNRA

The exploration will construct on a previous objective, EPICA (the European Task for Ice Coring in Antarctica), which occurred from 1996 to 2004 at the Concordia research study station, collectively run by France and Italy. The EPICA scientists had the ability to get an ice core with an 800,000-year record of environment information. Throughout this duration, the environment turned from glacial to interglacial durations on a 100,000-year cycle.

The EPICA core, nevertheless, “doesn’t cover the time between 900,000 and 1.2 million years ago, where we had a transition in the climate system,” Eisen informed press reporters throughout an interview.

Prior to 1.2 million years back, Earth’s glacial epoch are thought to have actually been rotating on a quicker, 40,000-year cycle. Researchers do not understand what took place throughout the following shift duration in the environment system that triggered the glacial durations to get longer and chillier. The Beyond EPICA scientists wish to discover some responses in the ice from Little Dome C along with information that will assist them construct environment projections for the future.

Over the last 3 years, the scientists surveyed the area around Concordia along with the area around Dome Fuji for a prospective drill website that would be most likely to have 1.5-million-year-old ice.

About 2 miles (3.2 km) above water level, Little Dome C has to do with 18 miles (30 km) from Concordia station — or a 2-hour snowmobile flight. The typical temperature level at the drill website is minus 66 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 54.5 degrees Celsius), and the group will work just the 2 months throughout the Antarctic summer season, encamped in shipping containers.

The location around Little Dome C is likewise really dry and barely sees rainfall, which benefits the objective of the task.

The red dot shows where Little Dome C is located.

The red dot reveals where Little Dome C lies.

Credit: British Antarctic Study

“The smaller the accumulation rate of snow every year, the more years you have in each meter,” stated task researcher Catherine Ritz, of France’s Institute for Geosciences and Environmental Research Study (IGE).

Having actually more layers crammed in firmly is essential due to the fact that, closer to the bedrock, ice can melt due to the heat from beneath the surface area of Earth. Melting at the bottom is the factor the previous EPICA ice core just had layers back to 800,000 years.

“The most exciting information we will be looking at will be squeezed in the deepest part of the core,” Carlo Barbante, of the University of Venice, informed press reporters. “Most probably, the ice as old as 800,000 years to 1.5 million years will be squeezed in the last 200 to 300 meters of ice.”

It will likely take the Beyond EPICA group years to reach those ancient layers of ice as they eliminate 13-foot-long (4 meter), 4 -inch-wide (10 centimeters) tubes of ice at a time. That likewise implies the most essential outcomes of the task will not come out till a minimum of 2025.

The European Union-funded task is approximated to cost about €30 million euros ($33.8 million), according to the BBC.

Initial post on Live Science.

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