This week I got to tour the National Ice Core Lab at the Federal Center in Denver with about 35 other polar folks. Really interesting stuff-- got to go back in the big freezer and see where they have ice from as far back as Little America 5 in the '50s. We got to ask a lot of questions, and we all learned a lot of cool stuff. For instance, we learned that the NICL has ice samples from the Vostok ice core, which contain frozen lake water from the boundary of the ice sheet and Lake Vostok. That means it has bio-organisms from a lake of liquid water that exists under more than two miles of ice! Maybe I'm an ice geek, but I think that is pretty cool stuff. Speaking of cool, it was about -35F in the warehouse. Same temp in the ice processing room where we saw grad students and technicians sawing, planing, and polishing ice cores to prepare them for experiments. The ice they are working on now is from the WAIS (West Antarctic Ice Sheet) Divide project. Some of the most important global climate research going on now is being conducted on ice samples going through NICL. Scientists can actually plot global temperatures from gas bubbles in the ice cores. By studying oxygen isotopes and dissolved carbon dioxide, they can make a chart of the temperatures on earth for thousands of years.
I'm bummed that I'm only slated to go to the ice for a couple of weeks this austral summer (around Thanksgiving). I'd really like to get closer to the science. See: http://nicl.usgs.gov/