Scientists head to warming Alaska to recover ice cores from glaciers

April 30th, 2008 - 3:24 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, April 30 (ANI): A team of scientists is heading to warming Alaska to recover ice cores from glaciers, in an effort to better understand how the Pacific Northwest fits into the larger climate-change picture.

The expedition is headed by Cameron Wake of the UNH (University of New Hampshire) Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space (EOS) and Karl Kreutz of the University of Maine Climate Change Institute, who will head to Denali National Park on the second leg of a multi-year mission.

The month-long reconnaissance mission will identify specific drill sites for surface-to-bedrock ice cores that will provide researchers with the best climate records going back some 2,000 years.

The fieldwork is part of a decade-long goal to gather climate records from ice cores from around the entire Arctic region.

Just as any one meteorological station cant tell you about regional or hemispheric climate change, a series of ice cores is needed to understand the regional climate variability in the Arctic, said Wake. This effort is part of a broader strategy that will give us a fuller picture, he added.

According to Kreutz, the 2,000-year ice core record will provide a good window for determining how the climate system has been affected by volcanic activity, the variability of solar energy, changes in greenhouse gas concentrations and the dust and aerosols in the atmosphere that affect how much sunlight reaches the Earth.

Through May, Wake, his student Eric Kelsey, the UMaine team, and Canadian ice-core driller Mike Waszkiewicz will visit potential deep drilling sites and use a portable, ground-penetrating radar to determine the ice thickness and internal structure on specific glaciers.

They will be looking for layer-cake ice with clear, well-defined annual stratigraphy.

A clear record from Denali will help round out the bigger paleoclimate picture by adding critical information gathered from ice cores recovered in the North Pacific, all of which can be compared to a wealth of climate data already gathered in the North Atlantic region.

At the potential drill sites, the scientists will also collect samples for chemical analysis from 20-foot-deep snowpits and shallow ice cores, and install automatic weather stations at 7,800 feet and 14,000 feet.

The chemical analyses, which will be carried out at both UNH and UMaine labs, are needed to decipher changes in temperature, atmospheric circulation, and environmental change such as the phenomenon known as Arctic haze, which has brought heavily polluted air masses to the region for decades from North America, Europe, and Asia. (ANI)

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