Researchers capture oldest ice core ever drilled outside the polar regions

New Orleans—The oldest ice core ever drilled outside the polar regions may contain ice that formed during the Stone Age—more than 600,000 years ago, long before modern humans appeared.

Researchers from the United States and China are now studying the core—nearly as long as the Empire State Building is tall—to assemble one of the longest-ever records of Earth’s climate history.

What they’ve found so far provides dramatic evidence of a recent and rapid temperature rise at some of the highest, coldest mountain peaks in the world.

At the American Geophysical Union meeting on Thursday, Dec. 14, they report that there has been a persistent increase in both temperature and precipitation in Tibet’s Kunlun Mountains over the last few centuries. The change is most noticeable on the Guliya Ice Cap, where they drilled the latest ice core. In this region, the average temperature has risen 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) in the last 50 years and the average precipitation has risen by 2.1 inches per year over the past 25 years.

Lonnie Thompson, Distinguished University Professor in the School of Earth Sciences at The Ohio State University and co-leader of the international research team, said that the new data lend support to computer models of projected climate changes.

“The ice cores actually demonstrate that warming is happening, and is already having detrimental effects on Earth’s freshwater ice stores,” Thompson said

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