Dating events using ice
Since the ice forms from the incremental buildup of annual layers of snow, lower layers are older than upper, and an ice core contains ice formed over a range of years.Cores are drilled with hand augers (for shallow holes) or powered drills; they can reach depths of over two miles (3.2 km), and contain ice up to 800,000 years old.Depths of over 400 m were reached, a record which was extended in the 1960s to 2164 m at Byrd Station in Antarctica.
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The bubbles disappear and the ice becomes more transparent.
The physical properties of the ice and of material trapped in it can be used to reconstruct the climate over the age range of the core.
The proportions of different oxygen and hydrogen isotopes provide information about ancient temperatures, and the air trapped in tiny bubbles can be analysed to determine the level of atmospheric gases such as carbon dioxide.
Because the rate of snowfall varies from site to site, the age of the firn when it turns to ice varies a great deal.
At Summit Camp in Greenland, the depth is 77 m and the ice is 230 years old; at Dome C in Antarctica the depth is 95 m and the age 2500 years.
The American National Ice Core Laboratory provides some information on how they store and keep ice cores. A synchronized dating of three Greenland ice cores throughout the Holocene.
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