Frozen assets: The race against time to protect priceless artifacts
Frani Halperin, H2O Media, Ltd.

Looking for your next read? How about a mystery that delves into a past that perhaps no one has ever heard before? There’s a library that holds those stories — stories of how our planet might have looked hundreds of thousands of years ago before humans existed. You don’t need special permission to enter this library, but you will need a reservation — and a parka. It’s -40 degrees inside, where these books, so to speak, are kept.

Theo Carr is our “librarian” today as we enter the National Science Foundation’s Ice Core Facility (NSF-ICF) in Lakewood, Colorado, just west of Denver. The building holds the largest archive of ice in the world — containing some 25,000 meters — collected from the Arctic to Antarctica. Staff, like Carr, are tasked with safely and securely storing ice cores from the glaciated regions of the world.

Live from the National Science Foundation Ice Core Facility
Denver Museum of Nature & Science

Much like reading tree rings, scientists can read the past (and even predict the future!) using ice cores cut and transported from extreme places such as Antarctica and Greenland. So, what is the ancient ice telling us? And how is this ice different from what we might pull out of a freezer?

On February 9, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science held a virtual field trip to the NSF-ICF.

Watch the recording from the virtual field trip and hear Assistant Curator Richard Nunn talk about the NSF-ICF and ice cores!

Ice lab gets to the core of the climate crisis
Benjamin J. Hulac, Roll Call

LAKEWOOD, Colo. — Princess Elsa isn’t moving. Maybe because she’s inanimate. Or she takes her role in Disney’s movie “Frozen” too literally. The fact she’s a cutout could explain it.

Or maybe it’s because Elsa, stored in the nation’s premier ice core laboratory, a freezer that holds more than 22,000 meters worth of core samples, lives in a room kept at -36 C.

“The ice cores are the best record that we have of natural climate change,” Richard Nunn, assistant curator at the National Science Foundation Ice Core Facility, said during a recent visit. “To the best of my knowledge, this is the largest single collection of ice cores in the world.”

There's snow in Lakewood that hasn't melted in more than 400,000 years
Cory Reppenhagen, 9News

LAKEWOOD, Colo. — There is a kind of polar process happening in the parking lots on the Front Range.

Over time, snow turns to ice. And the icier a pile of snow gets, the harder and denser it becomes. Which means the longer it sits, the more energy it will take to melt it.

Those parking lot glaciers have now been sitting around for more than a month. That is a long time but there’s some ice in Denver that formed more than 400,000 years ago.

Podcast: National Ice Core Lab
The Atlas Obscura Podcast

IN THIS EPISODE OF THE ATLAS OBSCURA PODCAST, we learn how scientists in Denver, Colorado, store and conduct tests on miles of ice core samples dating back hundreds of thousands of years.

A recent reversal in the response of western Greenland’s ice caps to climate change
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Research suggests some ice caps grew during past periods of warming

Woods Hole, MA – Greenland may be best known for its enormous continental scale ice sheet that soars up to 3,000 meters above sea level, whose rapid melting is a leading contributor to global sea level rise. But surrounding this massive ice sheet, which covers 79% of the world’s largest island, is Greenland’s rugged coastline dotted with ice capped mountainous peaks. These peripheral glaciers and ice caps are now also undergoing severe melting due to anthropogenic (human-caused) warming. However, climate warming and the loss of these ice caps may not have always gone hand-in-hand.

Cores 3.0: Future-proofing Earth sciences’ historical records
Jane Palmer, Eos

In September 2013, a major storm dumped a year’s worth of rain on the city of Boulder, Colo., in just 2 days. Walls of water rushed down the mountainsides into Boulder Creek, causing it to burst its banks and flood nearby streets and buildings.

Instead of trying to escape the flood, Tyler Jones, a biogeochemist at the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR) in Boulder, drove directly toward it. His motive? Mere meters from the overflowing creek, a large freezer housed the lab’s collection of precious ice cores.

Ancient Rome Was Teetering. Then a Volcano Erupted 6,000 Miles Away.
Katherine Kornei, The New York Times

[NSF-ICF NOTE: Tephra from the GISP2 ice core was used in this research.]

Chaos and conflict roiled the Mediterranean in the first century B.C. Against a backdrop of famine, disease and the assassinations of Julius Caesar and other political leaders, the Roman Republic collapsed, and the Roman Empire rose in its place. Tumultuous social unrest no doubt contributed to that transition — politics can unhinge a society. But so can something arguably more powerful.

Scientists on Monday announced evidence that a volcanic eruption in the remote Aleutian Islands, 6,000 miles away from the Italian peninsula, contributed to the demise of the Roman Republic. That eruption — and others before it and since — played a role in changing the course of history.

CWU Researchers Study Regional Pollution Using Ice Core from the North Cascades
Robert Lowery, Public Affairs, Central Washington University

Using ice core samples retrieved from the South Cascade Glacier, CWU researchers have been able to reconstruct black carbon concentrations in the atmosphere spanning the period 1840-1991. Ice cores provide invaluable information that is used to determine past climate and environmental conditions.

This Lakewood Warehouse Stores Secrets Older Than Civilization Itself: A 2.5-million-year-old piece of ice arrives at the National Science Foundation Ice Core Facility this month
5280, Jesse Klein

The National Science Foundation Ice Core Facility holds records so old, they make those at the Library of Congress, the University of Cambridge, and the Vatican Apostolic Archive seem like new releases. Instead of manuscripts, though, the “documents” at this U.S. Geological Survey–managed warehouse in Lakewood, the only one of its kind in the country, are archaic pieces of frozen matter. Scientists drill the samples, called ice cores, from deep within glaciers and ship them to this facility, where they’re stored in meter-long chunks at minus 36 degrees Celsius.