In the first weeks of the New Year a team of European scientists drilled successfully through 2002 metres of ice at Dome Concordia, high on East Antarctica`s plateau - one of the most hostile places on the planet. A specially created laboratory on the ice enabled scientists to analyse, for the first time, past climate shifts within hours of each 3 m length of core being drilled - rather than waiting months or years for detailed study back in European labs. The team, working on a seven-year Antarctic research programme to discover the history of the Earth`s climate and atmosphere, report that ice from this depth came from snow that fell 170,000 years ago, when the region was 10ºC colder than it is today.
The 22-person team of scientists and drilling experts taking part in the European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica (EPICA) worked in temperatures of -20ºC. Complex experiments, involving sweeping ice core segments with a range of electrical frequencies, provide a `fingerprint` of the chemical contents of the ice. It is this chemistry that holds the clues to our past climate.
The team will complete this season`s drilling at the end of January. After on-site analysis the cores will be sent to over 30 different European laboratories for more detailed study. The team will return to Antarctica next year to drill to the bottom of the ice to produce a history of climate and atmospheric composition for the last half a million years.
Linda Capper | alphagalileo
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