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Australia Plans to Drill 2,000-Year-Old Ice Core in Antarctica

Dec 16, 2012 12:11 PM EST
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Australia announced a new project Saturday to drill a deep ice core in Antarctica, which may shed light on the past climatic conditions in the continent, news agency Agence France-Presse has reported.

The project, called Aurora Basin North project, will involve researchers drilling a 2,000-year-old ice core, in order to search for the scientific "holy grail" of the ice core.

The research team will drill through 1,312 feet of ice, more than 372 miles inland from Australia's Casey Station in the east of Antarctica, the news agency said.

Australian environment minister Tony Burke said that the drilling of the deep ice core in the heart of Antarctica could help researchers understand how the climate has changed in the last 2,000 years. This might help in predicting responses to climate change in the future.

According to the researchers, the Aurora Basin is the perfect place to drill the ice core, as the area experiences more than four inches (11 centimeters) of snowfall every year. The region could give better data on the changes in climate on a yearly basis for the last 2,000 years, according to a report in news.com.au.

"Ice cores provide the written history of our atmosphere and our water," Burke told news.com.au.

"Seeking ice cores from this new area where there is much higher snow fall than other inland sites provide a massive increase in the level of detail which lives within the ice."

The drilling work is expected to begin next summer. Twenty scientists from different countries including Australia, the United States, France and Denmark will be involved in the project.

Australia is not the first country to have announced a plan to drill the ice cores in Antarctica. Several other nations are working on various projects in the continent, hoping to find evidence of microbial life.

Recently, a team of researchers discovered that a different community of bacteria is thriving in the brine of Lake Vida that lies beneath 60 feet of ice in the northernmost part of the McMurdo Dry Valleys of East Antarctica.

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