Scientists drill first deep ice core at the South Pole

16328756452_eb469f4a57_oUCI and fellow researchers map climate history at the bottom of the Earth. A small group of glaciologists have been working in round-the-clock daylight and frigid temperatures drilling an ice core at the other end of the planet. Drilling continued through the end of January 2015 for the first of two years of a joint project by the UC Irvine and the University of Washington. The National Science Foundation is funding the South Pole Ice Core Project to dig into climate history at the planet’s southernmost tip.
The 40,000-year record will be the first deep core from this region of Antarctica, and the first record longer than 3,000 years collected south of 82 degrees latitude. Scientists were attracted by conditions at the pole, which are cold even by Antarctic standards. The location is just 1.7 miles from the South Pole. The thick, uncontaminated layers of ice there will help answer questions about how Antarctic climate interacts with the rest of the world. The period between 40,000 years ago and 10,000 years ago includes sudden swings in temperature, ending with warming at the end of the last ice age. The team collected a more than 2-mile ice core from West Antarctica, a five-year effort that ended in 2011. Analysis of that ice is ongoing at UCI, UW and many other labs nationwide.
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“Greenland’s fjords are far deeper than previously thought, and glaciers will melt faster”
West Greenland’s fjords are vastly deeper than rudimentary models have shown, allowing intruding ocean water to badly undercut glacier faces, which will raise sea levels around the world much faster than previously estimated, a UCI-led research team has found. Those are the findings of a UCI-led research team that battled rough waters and an onslaught of icebergs for three summers to map the remote channels for the first time.
The results have been accepted for publication in Geophysical Research Letters and are now available online. “Measurements are challenging to obtain beneath hundreds of meters of seawater in poorly charted, ice-infested fjords,” writes lead author Eric Rignot, a UCI glaciologist with a secondary appointment at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He and co-authors Ian Fenty of JPL, Cilan Cai and Yun Xu of UCI, and Chris Kemp of TerraSond Ltd. obtained and analyzed around-the-clock measurements of the marine waters and their intersection with the coastal edge of Greenland’s ice sheet. They discovered that some glaciers are perched on giant earthen sills, protecting them from the punishing salt water – for now at least – while others are being severely eroded out of sight beneath the surface, meaning they could collapse and melt much sooner than expected. “Numerical ice sheet models do not take into account these interactions and, as a result, underestimate how fast the glaciers will respond to climate warming,” Rignot said. To see video, photos and a narrative of the August 2014 expedition, click here.