The bubbles visible in this piece from an Antarctic ice core sample contain carbon dioxide and other gases that were trapped in the ice when formed thousands of years ago

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Antarctic ice core research at National Ice Core Lab

Ars Technica's Scott Johnson visited the National Ice Core Lab in Colorado and talked to researchers studying deep ice cores from Antarctica to find clues to climate change patterns up to 50,000 years ago.
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Ancient Ice Reveals Earth's Climate History

LAKEWOOD, Colo. (AP) – Inside a huge walk-in freezer in suburban Denver, a college student in a thick parka shoots a jolt of electricity through a yard-long column of ice extracted from Antarctica. Just outside the freezer, in a much warmer room, a computer wired to the ice registers a sudden spike in a jagged red line crawling across the screen. "Hey, we got a volcano," says T.J. Fudge, a University of Washington researcher. The electric current has detected a thin layer of volcanic residue in the ice, deposited by an eruption about 8,000 years ago.

Credit: Dan Elliot, Associated Press


National Ice Core Lab Stores Valuable Ancient Ice

It's a freezing cold day inside the National Ice Core Laboratory (NICL) in Denver, Colo., as it is every day of the year. That's because the NICL is a facility for storing and studying ice cores recovered from the polar regions of the world. It's -10°F inside, so everyone is bundled up in ski parkas, insulated gloves and boots. And, saws are buzzing, as scientists from all over the U.S. are measuring and cutting pieces of precious Antarctic glacier ice to take back to their labs for research. While their research goals vary, all the scientists are here on this day for same thing - ice cores from the WAIS Divide Ice Core project.


CO2 in the Ice Core Record

Studying ice cores at the National Ice Core Lab, Dr. Richard Alley shows how ancient ice contains records of Earth's past climate. Over 400,000 years, and even longer, levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) have risen and fallen from about 180 parts per million to 280, varying from colder in the Ice Ages to warmer in interglacial periods. Today, however, for the first time in more than 400,000 years, CO2 is at 390 parts per million and continuing to rise at 2 parts per million (ppm) per year. Alley relates the onset of this change to the Industrial Revolution.

Credit: EARTH: The Operators' Manual (Segment 5)


NICL Core Processing Line

This excellent short video, filmed during the 2010 WAIS Divide core processing line (CPL), provides a good summary of how many CPLs are carried out at the National Ice Core Laboratory (NICL).

The video was filmed and produced by Logan Mitchell at Oregon State University.


Ice Core Secrets Could Reveal Answers to Global Warming

At the Stable Isotope Lab in Boulder, Colo., scientists are doing a lot of the same things that those CSI folks do on TV. But instead of being "crime scene investigators," these experts are more like "cold scene investigators." Geoscientists like lab director Jim White work primarily with one raw material: ancient ice, in the form of ice cores.

The ice cores come from Greenland and Antarctica. And, says White, they hold secrets from thousands of years ago.


Time History of Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide (Showing Ice Core Data)

History of atmospheric CO2 from 800,000 years ago until January 2016. Measurements were taken in dozens of locations around the world (the red ball measures CO2 in Hawaii and the blue dot measures CO2 at the South Pole). The ice core CO2 data starts at roughly the 2:30 minute mark.


How do Ice Cores Allow Researchers to look at Global Climate Change?

Bess Koffman, PhD Student at the University of Maine, explains how ice cores are used to study global climate change.


Alaska mountain glaciers retreating due to climate change

With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the scientists are working to reconstruct the climate history of this area over the last thousand years. They're researching the relationship between the temperatures and precipitation rates, and the response of glaciers in this area to climate changes.

In 2013, the team drilled ice cores high atop Denali's Mount Hunter. By carefully analyzing ice layers inside the cores, the team is developing a record of temperature change in the Alaska range over the last millennium.


Reading Ice Cores

In May and June 2007, Mary Albert (CRREL) and Jeff Severinghaus (Scripps) led a team of 9 researchers and 3 drillers in a 3-week project to drill down through nearly 125 meters of "firn" and ice close to NSF's Summit Station, Greenland. "Firn" is multi-year snow before it's transformed into solid ice through the pressure of layer upon layer of new snow each successive year. Understanding the physical structure of the firn and the gases trapped in it, is essential to properly interpreting the ice core record, and understanding what cores reveal about Earth's past climate.


Drilling for ice - Horizon - BBC

Professor Richard Alley reports from Greenland on the biggest climate change study since the last ice age. By drilling down into the ice scientists are able to chart the temperatures of the last 100,000 years, and the results are somewhat surprising. Fascinating clip taken from the BBC Horizon programme Big Chill.