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The Search Is On! EU Launches Project to Hunt Down Oldest Ice on Earth

Nov 16, 2016 10:54 AM EST
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Experts are now hunting down a 1.5-million-year-old ice in Antarctica that holds crucial information of our past's climatic events. Through the beyond-EPICA-Oldest Ice or BE-OI Project, glaciologists and experts from European countries are now been tracking down the key to climatic forecasts of the future.

Funded with 2.2 million euros, the BE-OI Project is coordinated by the German Alfres Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Center for Polar and Marine Research (AWI). BE-OI's consortium is tasked to focus on locating the oldest possible ice core, preferably older than 800,000 years specifically for Dome C and Dome Fuji in Antarctica. This undertaking is the group's efforts in taking part of the global movement of the International Partnerships in Ice Core Sciences on finding the appropriate sites for drilling."We do not know, why there was a change in the glacial-interglacial periodicity 900,000 to 1,200,000 years ago," said Prof Olaf Eisen, AWI glaciologist and coordinator of BE-OI project.

The group needed the oldest possible ice core since the specimen can provide detailed climatic condition of the earth's past. Ice are able to record the temperature as well as capture gases which cannot be obtained on land or ground drills. Currently, the oldest ice core analyzed in the laboratory aged around 800,000 years old and with the estimates of mid-Pleistocene transition on glacial and interglacial periods which take turns every 40,000 years and lasts up to around 100,000 years, the sample won't be enough. "We cannot dedicatedly investigate the role of the greenhouse gases because we do not have suitable samples", AWI glaciologist and subproject leader Prof Frank Wilhelms mentioned.

BE-OI Project will start it's kick-off activities by surveying East Antarctica for ice thickness that can provide a good lead to potential areas. Advanced technologies on ice drilling will also be employed with in-situ analyses of several parameters to make the survey and assessment faster. "During previous studies we determined key regions, where we expect the oldest continuous ice record on Earth," Prof. Eisen said on a press release. "Now we have to prove this and it is important that we learn as much as possible about deposition processes and the composition of the ice," he added.

Aside from the search for the oldest ice core, BE-OI Project also aims to develop science and management plan which can also help in allocation of budget and funding, create a collaboration of experts on the technical and personnel line regarding the deep-drilling activities and include relevant groups such as the paleoclimate and modelling communities.

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