For the Public
Today's news is alive with questions about the amount and types of global climate change we should anticipate, and the potential impact future conditions may have on our environment, economy and lifestyle. Imagine how helpful going back hundreds of thousands of years in time to examine past climate conditions would be, for understanding what is happening today...
Ice core research is delivering that capability now!
Just as one might study lessons in history to better understand political behaviors today, polar scientists can analyze chemical and physical indicators of past climates trapped deep within layers of snow and ice by retrieving cylindrical cores from earth's large ice sheets and mountain glaciers. The deeper they drill, the farther back in time the record goes ... now 800,000 years at one Antarctic site! These archived clues help them to understand the atmospheric conditions at the time the layers were formed. Bubbles of carbon dioxide, debris from volcanic events, man-made pollutants such as lead, types and amounts of hydrogen, oxygen, sulfur and salt particles captured from the air when the snow originally fell all provide different types of evidence that together is gradually creating a detailed picture of long-term climate patterns.
Ice core research has yielded important data related to this search for knowledge, such as the discovery that dramatic changes in climate can occur abruptly, in less than ten years (NRC, 2002). Equally important, it has shown that major efforts humans have made, such as enacting the Clean Air Act, have made a difference in cleaning up our environment1.
This section of the website offers links to reliable information and relevant sites for you to explore as you ponder what the evidence says about the impact of global climate change for you, your region and your family - and use that knowledge to assess your own personal decisions.
For still and video images of the research in action, you may also enjoy Cool Stuff for Everyone.
1 McConnell, J.R., G.W. Lamorey, and M.A. Hutterli (2002), A 250-year high-resolution record of Pb flux and crustal enrichment in central Greenland, Geophysical Research Letters, 29(23), 2130.