Summary- Ancient Ice and Our Planet’s Future

As the scientists rightfully put it, Science is the pursuit of knowledge with the endeavor to understand the world we live in order to improve our human condition. The WAIS project scientists engage in extensive studies on the Antarctic ice sheets where they compare greenhouse concentrations in the past to simulated temperature data. Funding for this study is from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The findings are invaluable in predicting future climatic changes in light of current climate changes especially global warming.

The scientists focus on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS). An Antarctic ice sheet refers to a colossal glacier that is mobile over the bedrock as it slowly progresses towards the Southern ocean. The formation of this particular ice sheet has taken over hundreds of thousands of years due to the layer-wise accumulation of annual snowfall from ancient years. Each snow layer is compressed into solid ice by the weight of recent gathering snow above. During the formation of solid ice, packets of air between the crystals become trapped as bubbles. These bubbles contain ancient atmospheric gases. In the WAIS site, the solid ice has been buried at a depth of 300 feet below the ice sheet surface and is estimated to be 2 miles thick. The WAIS site exhibits a snowfall rate of 20 inches annually thereby leading to the ice accumulation rate of 8.66 inches per annum. The season layers of ice are distinguished and the annual layers are apparent for past 40,000 years. Ice cores can be retrieved to analyze gas bubbles for thousands of past millennia.

The video is informative on the retrieval of ice core evidence in the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Scientists employ superior drilling technology (Deep Ice Sheet Coring (DISC) drill) to retrieve a cylindrical sample of ice that is deeply buries in the WAIS site. The drill bears a long hollow steel tube that has razor sharp cutters at the bottom edge. Once retrieved, each ice core sample is stored at -20° C in the ice core handling room where data entry occurs before shipment to the ice core lab in Denver for analysis. This cylindrical sample of compressed solid ice is referred to as an ice core. The ice core contains bubbles of ancient air that have been trapped in the ice for hundreds of thousands of years. The gaseous composition of these bubbles is instrumental in understanding the Earth's climate over the past millennia. The findings will be used to project future climate changes. The drill bears a long hollow steel tube that has razor sharp cutters at the bottom edge.

Data that can be deduced from the ice core analysis includes: wind patterns, sea ice cover around Antarctica, surface air temperature as well as the atmospheric composition of greenhouse gases. After analysis of all these information scientists can understand the climatic changes of past millennia especially with respect to composition of atmospheric greenhouse gases. Current global warming has escalated due to the increasing emission of greenhouse gases that have led to the depletion of the ozone layer. High temperatures have led to the high melting ate of glaciers thereby causing flooding and tsunamis. Data gathered from ice cores will help the scientists to note climatic changes and trends in light of varying climatic parameters over the past years. This information will be crucial in predicting the earth's climatic changes in future.