Greenland Past Could Help Us See the Future; SCIENTISTS USING PREDICTIONS OF PAST CHANGES IN RESEARCH

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Byline: RACHAEL MISSTEAR

AN INTERNATIONAL team of scientists has produced a prediction of what climate records from Greenland might look like during the past 800,000 years.

And experts hope the research, led by Dr Stephen Barker of Cardiff University, may help us create more reliable computer models to predict future climate change.

Taking drill cores from Greenland's vast ice sheets have provided the first clue that Earth's climate is capable of very rapid transitions.

But, while the research is revealing about the past millennia, Dr Barker was adamant it cannot be used by itself to predict future climate change.

"This research looks at the variability when there was more ice on earth than there is today, you can't draw a direct analogy with today's climate change," he said.

"What this research will do is tell us more about how the Earth's climate system works and provide a framework for subsequent research, using a wealth of other variables."

The new evidence comes from the accumulation of layers of ancient snow, which compact to form the ice sheets we see today. Each layer of ice can reveal past temperatures and even evidence for the timing and magnitude of distant storms or volcanic eruptions.

By drilling cores in the ice scientists have reconstructed an incredible record of past climates.

Until now such temperature records from Greenland have covered only the past 100,000 years or so.

The team's reconstruction is based on the much longer ice core temperature record retrieved from Antarctica and uses a mathematical formulation to extend the Greenland record beyond its current limit.

"Basically we have been able to extend, hypothetically, the records we get from Greenland by eight times their current length," said Dr Barker.

"These records have provided the impetus for a huge amount of research into the possible causes of what we call abrupt climate change.

"Our approach is based on an earlier suggestion that the record of Antarctic temperature variability could be derived from the Greenland record. …