OVERVIEW

The U.S research community is conducting a deep ice coring project in West Antarctica for studies of climate, ice sheet history and cryobiology. This project is collecting a deep ice core from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) ice flow divide and integrating approximately 40 separate but synergistic projects to analyze the ice and interpret the records.


The most significant characteristic of the WAIS Divide project is the development of climate records with an absolute, annual-layer-counted chronology for the most recent ~40,000 years. Lower temporal resolution records will extend to ~100,000 years before present. These records will enable comparison of environmental conditions between the northern and southern hemispheres, and the study of greenhouse gas concentrations in the paleo-atmosphere, with a greater level of detail than previously possible.


The WAIS Divide ice core will provide the first Southern Hemisphere climate and greenhouse gas records of comparable time resolution and duration to the Greenland ice cores enabling detailed comparison of environmental conditions between the northern and southern hemispheres, and the study of greenhouse gas concentrations in the paleo-atmosphere, with a greater level of detail than previously possible. The WAIS Divide ice core will also be used to test models of WAIS history and stability, and to investigate the biological signals contained in deep Antarctic ice cores. Unlike the Greenland ice cores, an excellent atmospheric CO2 record is expected to be obtained from the WAIS Divide ice core since Antarctic ice has an order of magnitude less dust than Greenland ice. Many other gases (both greenhouse and non-greenhouse) and their isotopes will be measured at unprecedented precision and resolution.