1 October 2010

Looking For Answers In Ancient Ice

Posted by Dan Satterfield

The Eemian was the warm period before the last ice age. Scientists had never recovered ice that old from Greenland until this past July. I was there to witness some real history. (This trace is from an ice core at Vostok, Antarctica. NOAA)

Back in July I spent 9 days and (at that latitude) no nights at the top of the world.

Scientists from over a dozen nations made history by recovering the oldest ice ever obtained from Greenland. Year after year the snow piles up in Greenland, and as it gets buried and compressed it eventually forms a hard clear ice.

That ice is 2 km thick across most of Greenland. It’s one of three icecaps on Earth. The other two are in Antarctica.

Scientists are drilling cores of ice in all of them and are getting a look at out past climate in a resolution thought impossible a few decades ago. They can see year by year for thousands of years into the past!

NEEM folks take 1 night a week off and open the "ice bar".

The North Greenland Eemian Ice Core project (NEEM) was the first to scan the ice core as it came up for a host of scientific measurements. By counting the oxygen atoms in the ice they can derive the temperature of the planet, when that ice was snow falling from the sky. Most oxygen atoms have 16 neutrons but some have  18 neutrons. The ratio of one to the other is a natural thermometer.

This amazing fact was discovered by Willi Dansgaard from Denmark and the Danes have been leaders in climate research ever since.

I was lucky enough to be the guest of Dr. Jim White. He is the Lead U.S. Scientist at NEEM.  In spite of the difficulties in dealing with one of the harshest environments on Earth, it was an amazing adventure.

Now I can share it with you.

A big thank you to Dave Jones at Storm Center Comm. for arranging it and to David Wood the best photojournalist in Alabama for turning my shaky camera work into TV.

[QUICKTIME http://www.wildwildweather.com/video/NEEMPKG640.m4v 640 360]


Here are some out takes you may enjoy 😉

[QUICKTIME http://www.wildwildweather.com/video/outtakes.m4v 640 360]

Some more from the scientists at NEEM in the next post.