This huge cylinder of ice is a window into the past.
Scientists are collecting 50,000-year-old ice samples from deep within the… Antarctic ice shelf.
The ice – collected from 808 meters below the surface – provides a cross-section of the earth climate history, revealing past levels of greenhouse gases and planetary temperatures.
The mission was “fruitful,” says Carlo Barbante, director of the National Research Council’s Institute of Polar Sciences.
“The team of 13 researchers was there for about 60 days and they were able to drill to a depth of 808 metres, far beyond our initial expectations,” he explains.
“They could work in two shifts of about 8 hours each, from 8 in the morning to midnight, mining ice cores very high quality, so we are very happy with it.”
How deep do the researchers intend to go?
The scientists are working as part of the European research project ‘Beyond Epica’. This is their second drilling campaign in Antarctica \- but it won’t be the last.
Glaciologists aim to reach a depth of 2,700 meters (1.6 miles) where they expect to find ice 1.5 million years old.
Ice samples are an ingenious way to track the history of Earth’s climate.
Ice forms like layers of snow they pile up on top of each other, gradually compressing. Snow, which contains dissolved chemicals and particles, acts as a window to the atmosphere at the time it fell.
For example, some ancient ice cylinders boast darkness Black rings – indications that fallen snow has been mixed with volcanic ash after a recent eruption.
The Beyond Epica project has received €11 million in funding from the European Commission and other mission-sponsoring nations, including France and Italy.
The study, which has been ongoing since 2019, will last seven years.