Researchers Find Million-Years-Old Gases in Drilled Ice Cores

​Researchers stationed in Antarctica have found something incredibly amazing about Earth’s climate. The discoveries were made after the team drilled two million-years-old ice kernels and were categorized as the ‘first direct observations.’

Scientists led by Princeton University associate professor John Higgins mined the ancient samples of ice in the isolated Allan Hills area of Antarctica. The core samples are incorporating clean swatches of trapped greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4).

Million-Years-Old Gases

The scientists are positive on the concept that the ice cores depict fresh snapshots of the Earth’s climate dating back to the time when the man did not rule the world. As per DR. Yuzhen Yan, who led the Antarctic research, the finding clearly shows how the climate changed over time.

He said: “You don’t get a sense of how things changed continually, but you get an idea of big changes over time.”

According to the lead author of the study, the Antarctic ice core samples depict a continuous register of the climate from about 800,000 years back. However, due to the way ice flows and compacts with time, swatches more ancient than these show extensively divided patterns.

Professor Higgins, the one who led the drilling procedures that led to the discovery, previously extracted one million-year-old ice cores, which were the oldest ever found at that time. The researchers dated the ice cores by measuring the isotopes of argon gas found in the ice.

Dr. Yan said that the ability to calculate atmospheric composition directly is one of the most admirable benefits of ice cores.

“That’s why people spend years and years in the most isolated places getting them,” he added.

Now, the newly extracted older ice cores have aided scientists to better comprehend the formation process of the planet’s glacial cycle.

Unprecedented Levels of CO2

According to scientists, until approximately 1.2 million years ago, Earth’s glaciers were thinner and not so massive. They most probably formed and melted away throughout a cycle that lasted about 40,000 years.

However, after the Mid-Pleistocene Transition that took place between 1.2 million and 700,000 years, the glacial cycle became significantly longer. The planet was much colder than currently is, and glaciers took shape and melted over 100,000-years-long cycles.

Even though atmospheric CO2 is not the culprit that led to the prehistoric transition, the study has discovered the planet is currently suffering from unusual levels of atmospheric gas. As per NASA, the American space agency, levels of atmospheric CO2 were located around 408.53 parts per million (ppm) in October 2019 alone.

Dr. Yan said that those carbon dioxide levels were not seen in two million years. While the gathered data implies that long-term carbon dioxide reduction was not the main factor that contributed to the Mid-Pleistocene Transition, it does not mean that CO2 can’t lead the planet to changes that affect it all.

“We’re in a different situation now — carbon dioxide is the major player in our current world. If we want to look into the geologic past for an analogy of what’s going on in our world today, we need to go beyond two million years to find it,” ​he said.

The discovery was first published this month in the journal Nature​.

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