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Deep Core Complete: WAIS Divide project finishes 5-year effort

A scientist examines an ice core in West Antarctica

Rebecca Anderson examines an ice core in West Antarctica
Credit and Larger Version

January 19, 2012

The U.S. Antarctic Program (USAP) has drilled and recovered a 3,331-meter long ice core from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) in an area called the WAIS Divide, a high point on the ice sheet where the ice begins to flow in different directions.

It took five years working from a lonely field camp in one of the stormiest regions of the West Antarctic to extract the ice, which contains clues about Earth's past climate from the last 100,000 years, which covers the most recent glacial period, when the Earth was cooler and large ice sheets covered the northern and southern hemispheres. Concentrations of the main greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) were much lower than today's high of 390 parts per million.  Climate scientists are particularly excited about the WAIS Divide ice core because it promises to offer a particularly "high-resolution" record of the past 40,000 years, with thick annual layers akin to tree rings.

To learn more about the WAIS Divide project and ice-core drilling, read Deep core complete:  WAIS Divide project finishes five-year effort to retrieve 3,331 meters of ice in the Antarctic Sun, the U.S. Antarctic Program's online magazine. . . .

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2016, its budget is $7.5 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 48,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $626 million in professional and service contracts yearly.

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