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Thursday, April 18, 2024

The ice cores that may allow us to look 1.5-million-years into the previous

Melting isn’t an possibility as a result of carbon dioxide simply dissolves into water. Historically, scientists have used mechanical extraction strategies, grinding up samples of particular person layers of ice to free the air. However grinding wouldn’t be efficient for the Past EPICA ice within the college’s storage freezer, which is saved at 50 °C under zero. The oldest ice on the very backside of the core might be so compressed, and the person annual layers so skinny, that bubbles gained’t be seen—they’ll have been pressed into the lattice of ice crystals, forming a brand new section known as clathrate.

“On the very backside, we count on 20,000 years of local weather historical past compressed in just one meter of ice,” says Hubertus Fischer, head of the previous local weather and ice core science group at Bern. That’s a hundredth the thickness of any present ice core report.

The brand new methodology Krauss and Fischer are creating is named deepSLice. (A pizza menu is taped to the facet of the gadget proper underneath the laser warning labels, a present from a pizzeria in Australia with the identical identify.) DeepSLice has two elements. The Laser-Induced Sublimation Extraction System, or LISE, fills half a room within the staff’s lab house. LISE goals a near-infrared laser constantly at a 10-centimeter slice of ice core in order that it turns straight from stable to fuel underneath extraordinarily low stress and temperature. The sublimated fuel then freezes into six metallic dip tubes cooled to fifteen Okay (-258 °C), every containing the air from one centimeter of ice core. Lastly the samples are loaded right into a custom-made absorption spectrometer based mostly on quantum cascade laser expertise, which shoots photons by the fuel pattern to measure concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide concurrently. One other massive benefit of this technique is that it takes lots much less ice (and work) than the previous methodology of research, during which scientists measured methane by melting ice (it doesn’t dissolve into water) and measured carbon dioxide by grinding ice.

DeepSLice presents “a singular functionality that no person else has,” says Christo Buizert, an ice core scientist at Oregon State College and the ice evaluation lead for COLDEX (the Heart for Oldest Ice Exploration)—the US equal of Past EPICA, which is at present in a “pleasant race” with the Europeans to drill a steady core all the way down to 1.5-million-­year-old ice.

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