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Learning From Ice Cores In Antarctica

Part of Antarctica Discovery Week

Today we will learn about ice cores taken by scientists working in Antarctica and what they can tell us about the past and how we can protect the future of our planet Earth.

What Is An Ice Core?

When it snows each Winter in Antarctica the snow falls on the snow that has already fallen; building layer after layer of snow and ice. Each layer compresses the layer below it and traps the air at the time when it snowed into little bubbles. Look at the photograph and see how many there are in each "slice". Each bubble is a tiny time capsule telling us exactly what the Earth's air was like at the time that particular layer of snow fell.

Scientist in Antarctica can drill down into the snow and extract long "ice cores" that tell the history of the Earth's air from long ago.

You will have heard the term greenhouse gases we are sure - researchers use the levels of these so-called greenhouse gases to measure how the planet's atmosphere has changed. 

They can analyse the ice cores and measure the concentrations of gases such as carbon dioxide and methane and then compare them with the atmosphere now.

Antarctic ice cores have been extracted that are thought to be over 2 million years old! Not many cars and aeroplanes around then!

What Can We Learn From Ice Cores?

Studying climate change in Antarctica is very important as it gives a clear indicator of changing temperatures in areas of the Earth.

Antarctica is warming up much more rapidly than anywhere else - although you would not think that when looking at the videos and photos!

But scientists can learn a lot about climate change here and can report this to policymakers in the hope that we can be more aware of how we can help our planet and ensure its future health.

You will now understand why it is so important that these studies continue and we get the chance to hear about the findings and perhaps make small changes to our life that can have a massive impact in the longer term.

Watch this video from the Natural History Museum to learn more about ice cores in Antarctica.

Studying Ice Cores In Antarctica
Photograph of Ice Core
Ice Core (from Core Questions: An Introduction to Ice Cores)
Photograph of Ice Core
Photograph of Ice Core Machinary
Photograph of Ice Core Bubbles
Photograph of Ice Core Bubbles (By CSIRO) By CSIRO, CC BY 3.0,

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