Magazine article Science News

Deep Desires in Antarctica and Greenland

Magazine article Science News

Deep Desires in Antarctica and Greenland

Article excerpt

Laboring in the coldest spot on Earth, an international team of scientists has reached a new milestone in drilling through ice, providing a chronicle of climate going back nearly 400,000 years. This record, set in January at Russia's Vostok Station in Antarctica, won't stand for long, however. Several research groups plan to perforate Antarctica and Greenland further in the next few years, hoping to unlock fresh secrets about how Earth's climate works.

The drilling at Vostok Station, about 1,200 kilometers from the South Pole, goes back to the early 1970s, when Soviet crews extracted their first deep core at this site. Working with French and U.S. collaborators, the Vostok team began a fifth core in 1990 and reached a depth of 3,348 meters early this year.

"This is the deepest site in the world," says Jean Jouzel of the Laboratoire de Modelisation du Climat et de l'Environnement in Gif sur Yvette, France. He spoke last week in Baltimore at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

The latest Vostok core reaches back through four ice ages, each roughly 90,000 years long, and the intervening warm periods known as interglacials, which last about 10,000 years each. Scientists are eager to study the oldest glacial cycles because previous cores drilled at Vostok and in Greenland record only the two most recent ice ages.

Ice sheets and glaciers grow annually, layer by layer, trapping information about climate in more than a dozen ways. …

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