Record-shattering 2.7-million-year-old ice core reveals start of the ice ages

Review article 21 Dec Correspondence : Theo Manuel Jenk theo. High-altitude glaciers and ice caps from midlatitudes and tropical regions contain valuable signals of past climatic and environmental conditions as well as human activities, but for a meaningful interpretation this information needs to be placed in a precise chronological context. For dating the upper part of ice cores from such sites, several relatively precise methods exist, but they fail in the older and deeper parts, where plastic deformation of the ice results in strong annual layer thinning and a non-linear age—depth relationship. However such fragments are rarely found and, even then, they would not be very likely to occur at the desired depth and resolution. Since then this new approach has been improved considerably by reducing the measurement time and improving the overall precision.

Climate change studies & ice core research

Always quote above citation when using data! You can download the citation in several formats below. Abstract of Bazin et al. Until now, one common ice core age scale had been developed based on an inverse dating method Datice , combining glaciological modelling with absolute and stratigraphic markers between 4 ice cores covering the last 50 ka thousands of years before present Lemieux-Dudon et al.

In this paper, together with the companion paper of Veres et al. The AICC Antarctic Ice Core Chronology chronology includes numerous new gas and ice stratigraphic links as well as improved evaluation of background and associated variance scenarios.

Ice core dating using stable isotope data. Ice consists of water molecules made of atoms that come in versions with slightly different mass, so-called isotopes.

Scientist Ed Brook holds an ice core dating back 2 million years. Oregon State University. Analyzing the oldest ice core ever retrieved in Antarctica, U. The core, drilled in an area miles from the U. Until this latest research, published in Nature , the oldest complete ice core data — also from Antarctica — dated back , years. Analyzing gases trapped in air bubbles in that ice, scientists demonstrated that atmospheric CO2 levels have been directly linked with Antarctic and global temperatures for nearly 1 million years.

The 2 million-year-old ice core also demonstrates that correlation. The research group was led by scientists at Princeton University and the University of Maine. The ancient ice core also shed light on changes in the frequency of ice ages. During the past 1 million years, cycles of ice ages followed by warm periods occurred every , years. But from 1. The ice core was drilled to a depth of meters during the field season in an area known as Allen Hills.

Deeper ice cores have been drilled in Antarctica, but the age of this core was especially old because of its location.

Ice core dating using stable isotope data

Figure 1 Scientists measure ice cores from deep drilling sites on the ice sheet near Casey station Photo by M. Antarctica is the coldest, windiest, highest and driest continent on Earth. That’s right – the driest! Antarctica is a desert.

It is not uncommon to read that ice cores from the polar regions contain records “Dating of Greenland ice cores by flow models, isotopes, volcanic debris, and.

Ice-core records show that climate changes in the past have been large, rapid, and synchronous over broad areas extending into low latitudes, with less variability over historical times. These ice-core records come from high mountain glaciers and the polar regions, including small ice caps and the large ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica. As the world slid into and out of the last ice age, the general cooling and warming trends were punctuated by abrupt changes.

Climate shifts up to half as large as the entire difference between ice age and modern conditions occurred over hemispheric or broader regions in mere years to decades. Such abrupt changes have been absent during the few key millennia when agriculture and industry have arisen. The speed, size, and extent of these abrupt changes required a reappraisal of climate stability. Records of these changes are especially clear in high-resolution ice cores.

Ice cores can preserve histories of local climate snowfall, temperature , regional wind-blown dust, sea salt, etc. On some glaciers and ice sheets, sufficient snow falls each year to form recognizable annual layers, marked by seasonal variations in physical, chemical, electrical, and isotopic properties. These can be counted to determine ages e. Ice flow may disrupt layers quite close to the bed 4 , 5 , and ice flow progressively thins layers with increasing burial so that diffusion or sampling limitations eventually obscure annual layers.

Where annual layers are not observed because of depositional or postdepositional effects, by dating is conducted by correlation to other well-dated records, radiometric techniques in favorable circumstances, and by ice-flow modeling if needed. Most ice lacks sufficient appropriate materials to allow precise radiometric dating, but mountain glaciers sometimes contain enough material for radiocarbon dating 2 , and other techniques are possible.

An especially powerful technique for correlation is to use the composition of atmospheric gases trapped in bubbles in the ice 6.

Ice core studies

Author contributions: C. Ice outcrops provide accessible archives of old ice but are difficult to date reliably. Here we demonstrate 81 Kr radiometric dating of ice, allowing accurate dating of up to 1.

Hence there are large dating uncertainties regarding glacial advance after the Eemian. Ice core dust records may complement this research.

Why use ice cores? How do ice cores work? Layers in the ice Information from ice cores Further reading References Comments. Current period is at right. Wikimedia Commons. Ice sheets have one particularly special property. They allow us to go back in time and to sample accumulation, air temperature and air chemistry from another time[1]. Ice core records allow us to generate continuous reconstructions of past climate, going back at least , years[2].

By looking at past concentrations of greenhouse gasses in layers in ice cores, scientists can calculate how modern amounts of carbon dioxide and methane compare to those of the past, and, essentially, compare past concentrations of greenhouse gasses to temperature. Ice coring has been around since the s. Ice cores have been drilled in ice sheets worldwide, but notably in Greenland[3] and Antarctica[4, 5]. Through analysis of ice cores, scientists learn about glacial-interglacial cycles, changing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, and climate stability over the last 10, years.

Many ice cores have been drilled in Antarctica.

East Greenland ice core dust record reveals timing of Greenland ice sheet advance and retreat

The researchers often rely on events like volcanic eruptions to determine how old the ice is. And a very good thing is volcanic eruptions. When you have a volcano erupting you have ash for example in the atmosphere. And this ash layer can travel around the globe, and then also is deposited in Antarctic ice cores.

So you might be able to see a kind of darkish layer in an ice core and then you know exactly when this volcanic eruption was, and that is how you date your ice.

In cases where volcanic tephra is interspersed with ice, it can be dated using argon/argon dating and hence provide fixed points for dating.

And it is ice that draws paleoclimatologists literally to the ends of the Earth in the quest for knowledge about where our planet has been, where it is, and where it might be going. Ice cores provide a unique contribution to our view of past climate because the bubbles within the ice capture the gas concentration of our well-mixed atmosphere while the ice itself records other properties. Scientists obtain this information by traveling to ice sheets, like Antarctica or Greenland, and using a special drill that bores down into the ice and removes a cylindrical tube called an ice core.

Drilling thousands of meters into ice is a feat of technology, endurance, and persistence in extreme environments, exemplified by the joint Russian, U. In , Russian scientists extended the ice core to an incredible 3, meters, reaching Lake Vostok underneath the East Antarctic Ice Sheet. After scientists procure the cores, they slice them up into various portions each allotted to a specific analytical or archival purpose.

As the scientists are dividing the cores for analysis, they don special clean suits to prevent the core samples from becoming contaminated. Once the samples have been prepared, the scientists run a variety of physical and chemical analyses on the cores. Some of these ice procedures are consumptive, meaning their analysis requires destruction of the ice, while others have no effect on the ice.

Scientists study the gas composition of the bubbles in the ice by crushing a sample of the core in a vacuum.

Stratigraphy and dating

An ice core is a cylinder shaped sample of ice drilled from a glacier. Ice core records provide the most direct and detailed way to investigate past climate and atmospheric conditions. Snowfall that collects on glaciers each year captures atmospheric concentrations of dust, sea-salts, ash, gas bubbles and human pollutants. Analysis of the. Ice core records can be used to reconstruct temperature, atmospheric circulation strength, precipitation, ocean volume, atmospheric dust, volcanic eruptions, solar variability, marine biological productivity, sea ice and desert extent, and forest fires.

However, dating methods are still associated with large uncertainties for ice cores from the East Antarctic plateau where layer counting is not.

When archaeologists want to learn about the history of an ancient civilization, they dig deeply into the soil, searching for tools and artifacts to complete the story. The samples they collect from the ice, called ice cores, hold a record of what our planet was like hundreds of thousands of years ago. But where do ice cores come from, and what do they tell us about climate change? In some areas, these layers result in ice sheets that are several miles several kilometers thick.

Researchers drill ice cores from deep sometimes more than a mile, or more than 1. They collect ice cores in many locations around Earth to study regional climate variability and compare and differentiate that variability from global climate signals. Each layer of ice tells a story about what Earth was like when that layer of snow fell. For example, LeGrande says, as snow deposits onto a growing glacier, the temperature of the air imprints onto the water molecules.

The icy layers also hold particles—aerosols such as dust, ash, pollen, trace elements and sea salts—that were in the atmosphere at that time. These particles remain in the ice thousands of years later, providing physical evidence of past global events, such as major volcanic eruptions. Additionally, as the ice compacts over time, tiny bubbles of the atmosphere—including greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane—press inside the ice.

A climate model is like a laboratory inside a computer, LeGrande said.

Ice Cores and the Age of the Earth

The Black Death tore through Europe in the years —, killing as many as million people as the deadliest plague known to humans carved its path through history. Now, an analysis of ancient ice dating back through those dark days reveals an unexpected quirk of the plague — and researchers say the discovery provides evidence that the ‘natural’ level of lead in the atmosphere should be effectively zero.

When the sickness came, it caused massive social upheaval in the populations it infected, shutting down entire human industries as ravaged communities went into damage control.

The samples they collect from the ice, called ice cores, hold a record of what our planet was like hundreds of thousands of years ago. But where.

Polar ice results from the progressive densification of snow deposited at the surface of the ice sheet. The transformation of snow into ice generally occurs within the first meters and takes from decades to millennia, depending on temperature and accumulation rate, to be completed. During the first stage of densification, recrystallization of the snow grains occurs until the closest dense packing stage is reached at relative densities of about 0.

Then plastic deformation becomes the dominant process and the pores progressively become isolated from the surface atmosphere. The end product of this huge natural sintering experiment is ice, an airtight material. Because of the extreme climatic conditions, the polar ice is generally kept at negative temperatures well below the freezing point, a marked difference to the ice of temperate mountain glaciers.

Picture Climate: What Can We Learn from Ice?

Deep ice core chronologies have been improved over the past years through the addition of new age constraints. However, dating methods are still associated with large uncertainties for ice cores from the East Antarctic plateau where layer counting is not possible. Consequently, we need to enhance the knowledge of this delay to improve ice core chronologies. It is especially marked during Dansgaard-Oeschger 25 where the proposed chronology is 2.

Ice Core Dating. By sampling at very fine intervals down the ice core, and provided that each annual layer of snow is thick enough, several samples from each year.

Four environmental characteristics are encoded in these gas properties. Gases in glacial ice are trapped m below the surface of an ice sheet, as burial leads to densification and the sintering of ice grains. The uncompacted ice above the trapping depth or closeoff depth is a porous medium allowing molecular diffusion with little or no advection through most of its length. Under these conditions, the partial pressure of each gas or isotope will increase with depth according to the barometric equation, and the partial pressure of heavy gases or isotopes will increase faster than the light.

In a diffusive medium, isotopes of gases will fractionate according to temperature gradients, with heavier isotopes generally enriched at the cold end. Snow is an effective insulator, so that, after temperature changes rapidly, there is a temperature gradient between the surface to the closeoff depth for about years, the length of time required for the new temperature to penetrate to the closeoff depth.

Gases in the firn reach their equilibrium profiles in about a decade. Hence at times of rapid temperature change, there is a change in the isotopic composition of gas trapped at the closeoff depth that records the surface variation. This isotopic change adds to the gravitational fractionation when the surface warms, and subtracts from it when the surface cools.

The third environmental characteristic recorded by the gas properties is written in the isotopic composition of O 2.

Biblical Dating #4 Ice Core Dating