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Australia Plans To Drill 2,000-Year-Old Ice Core In Antarctica 62

An anonymous reader writes "Australia announced Saturday a new project to drill a deep ice core in Antarctica, which may shed light on past climatic conditions in the continent. The project, Aurora Basin North project, will involve researchers drilling a 2,000-year-old ice core, in order to search for the scientific 'holy grail' of the ice core."
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Australia Plans To Drill 2,000-Year-Old Ice Core In Antarctica

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  • Re:Oil (Score:4, Informative)

    by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Monday December 17, 2012 @05:05AM (#42312241)
    Bit tricky in the ice around 1km above a mountain range :)
  • by riverat1 ( 1048260 ) on Monday December 17, 2012 @05:24AM (#42312297)

    Greenland ice cores only go back 100,000 years or so. The oldest ice cores that I'm aware of are around 800,000 years from Antarctica. The attraction of this new site is apparently the snowfall is greater in this area than in most of Antarctica and so the layers in the ice core will be thicker allowing more precision in the measurements. They're saying this is preliminary research that could eventually lead to million year old ice cores.

  • Re:reply (Score:4, Informative)

    by arisvega ( 1414195 ) on Monday December 17, 2012 @08:04AM (#42312867)

    What is the purpose of the study ice cores? Is this to the exploitation of resources?

    Gases can get 'diluted' into liquids, almost the same way solids (e.g. sugar, salt) do. The assumption is that gases get 'locked' into the ice (along with other stuff) so one can drill a core, keep it as frozen and pristine (avoid contamination) as possible during transport, get it to the lab, and perform precision measurements of what one is looking for.

    The core is thought to 'record' the atmospheric history, because the levels of certain gases at various parts of the core reflect the atmospheric abundances of this and that gas, at the time that particular part of the core was frozen (created). So, in principle, a '2000-year' core is a core obtained by drilling to a depth that was the surface of the snow/ice 2000 years ago. Therefore by vaporizing parts of the core and taking precise measurements (say with a mass spectrometer) can give clues to the dominant atmospheric conditions of that age. Other frozen material can come as a bonus.

    The above are just basic principles, as I understand them, and I am certain the actual measurements and processing is far from trivial. But I am not an expert on this field, I only know a few people that are; perhaps someone that is an expert can consider contributing some more information.

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