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  • New evidence points to an unbroken, million-year-long ice core in Antarctica | Gizmodo
    Tuesday, May 29, 2018
    Ice cores are like a window to the past, allowing scientists to observe and document climatic and environmental changes over long timescales. The current record for a continuous ice core is 800,000 years, but an even older continuous core may exist deep within the Allan Hills Blue Ice Area in East Antarctica. Research by Laura Kehrl, a UW doctoral student in Earth and space sciences, is cited. Read More
  • Scientists have located the oldest continuous Antarctica ice cores ever | Quartz
    Tuesday, May 29, 2018
    To climate scientists, Antarctica's landscape is full of potential portals into our planet's past. This week, researchers published a paper announcing the discovery of ice records dating back a million years ago. Howard Conway, a research professor in the UW Department of Earth and space sciences, and his team's research are mentioned. Read More
  • Hawaii's lava flows are making the Big Island even bigger | Mashable
    Wednesday, May 23, 2018
    Lava flows from Hawaii's Kilauea volcano, while devastating for homes in the way, will gradually add new land to the Big Island, continuing a long geologic history of natural island-building. George Bergantz, a UW professor of Earth and space sciences, is quoted. Read More
  • A promising target in the quest for a 1-million-year-old Antarctic ice core
    Wednesday, May 23, 2018

    Ice cores offer a window into the history of Earth’s climate. Layers of ice reveal past temperatures, and gases trapped in bubbles reveal past atmospheric composition. The oldest continuous ice core so far comes from Dome C in East Antarctica and extends back 800,000 years.

    But a tantalizing clue recently offered the possibility to go back even further. A collaborative study between the University of Washington and the University of Maine now pinpoints a location where an entire million years of undisturbed ice might be preserved intact.

    “There’s a strong desire to push back the date of the oldest ice core record, to better understand what drives natural climate changes,” said Laura Kehrl, a UW doctoral student in Earth and space sciences and corresponding author of a recent paper in Geophysical Research Letters. “The Allan Hills has been an area of interest since the 1970s, when scientists started finding lunar and Martian meteorites that had struck Earth long ago. Now we’re discovering its potential for old ice.”

    blue ice with sled in distance

    The Allan Hills has older, blue ice exposed at the surface. Researchers towed their instrument on this wooden sled. The sloping topography and slippery surface made it challenging for radar surveys.Laura Kehrl/University of Washington

    The team gathered observations in Antarctica’s Allan Hills Blue Ice Area, named for the blue ice that is exposed at the surface when ice above gets vaporized. This windy, desert area gets less than 1 centimeter of snow accumulation per year.

    Allan Hills is located near the Trans-Antarctic Mountains, which separate the large, desert plateau of East Antarctica from the stormy West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Ice moves slowly here, less than 1 meter (3 feet) per year. The region had long been rejected in the search for an old ice core because ice flowing over the steep topography at the base seemed likely to be disturbed.

    yellow tent on snow

    A snowstorm interrupted the fieldwork and left the researchers confined to their field camp for three days. In this windy desert region, most of the snow was blown away the next day.Laura Kehrl/University of Washington

    But surprising findings published last summer by a Princeton University team found fragments of ice as far back as 2.7 million years several hundred feet below the surface in the Allan Hills. Those isolated chunks had been separated from their full history. Now the UW team thinks it has found a location nearby that would have a continuous, unbroken record.

    “A primary reason to seek such old ice is to understand one of the major puzzles of climate system history,” said second author Howard Conway, a UW research professor of Earth and space sciences and UW’s principal investigator of the project. The puzzle, he explained, is why Earth switched about 1 million years ago from having ice age cycles about every 41,000 years to every 100,000 years. Marine climate records show this switch occurred but they do not resolve details in the atmospheric composition 1 million years ago that might explain the cause.

    wooden sled loaded with instruments

    This wooden sled holds the ice-penetrating radar equipment. The researchers ride on a snow machine about 100 feet ahead.Laura Kehrl/University of Washington

    During the austral summer of 2016, UW researchers traveled to McMurdo Station and then flew to the field site. With support from the National Science Foundation they set up a remote camp on a patch of snow in the Allan Hills, 6,400 feet above sea level.

    Researchers used snow machines to tow ice-penetrating radar around the region. The radar sends radio waves into the ice, which reflect off of layers of ice with different chemistries and densities, providing an image of the structure below.

    A computer model of glacier flow incorporating the data from those surveys suggests that million-year-old ice is about 25 to 35 meters (about 100 feet) above the bedrock at a site roughly 5 kilometers (3 miles) from the place where the 2.7-million-year-old ice was found.

    Left: The Allan Hills Blue Ice Area in Antarctica, showing the research camp, the 2.7-million-year old ice and the proposed drilling site. The black line marks the track of the radar profile on the other panel. Right: Radar reflections from layers with different chemistry. The red dashed lines show two layers of volcanic ash deposits of known age. The black dashed line is the proposed core site.

    Left: The Allan Hills Blue Ice Area in Antarctica, showing the research camp, the 2.7-million-year old ice and the proposed drilling site. The black line marks the track of the radar profile on the other panel. Right: Radar reflections from layers with different chemistry. The red dashed lines show two layers of volcanic ash deposits of known age. The black dashed line is the proposed core site.Laura Kehrl/University of Washington

    The UW and Maine team has submitted a follow-up proposal to the National Science Foundation to drill the core. Kehrl says it’s “not unlikely” that they would retrieve an undisturbed record back to 1 million years. An added benefit of drilling here, she said, would be to learn the history of the Ross Ice Shelf and whether it has collapsed in the past, and how that corresponded to carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.

    Read Laura Kehrl’s blog from the field, including a post about the quest for a 1-million-year ice core

    “Regardless of whether the million-year ice is there, the record is likely to be valuable,” Kehrl said.

    Other co-authors are postdoctoral researchers Nicholas Holschuh and Seth Campbell at the UW, and Andrei Kurbatov and Nicole Spaulding at the University of Maine. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation.

    person standing on ice

    Laura Kehrl on a hike near McMurdo Station while waiting for a flight to the Allan Hills area.Nicole Spaulding/University of Maine

    ###

    For more information, contact Kehrl at kehrl@uw.edu or Conway at hcon@uw.edu or 206-685-8085.

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  • Mount St Helens Eruption Remembered by UW Scientist Studying It
    Tuesday, May 22, 2018
    Steve Malone, Research Professor Emeritus in ESS is interviewed by KING-TV on the 38th anniversary of the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens. Read More
  • Information Regarding Planned ASE Strike on Tuesday
    Tuesday, May 22, 2018
    ESS classes and labs will follow normal schedules today.

    Please check here for the latest information regarding the ASE Strike planned for Tuesday, May 15th.

    Timeline:

    4-16-18: Email from Mindy Kornberg: Notification of contract negotiation between UW Administration and UAW Local 4121 to faculty and staff

    Week of 4-23-18: UAW Local 4121 ASE Vote to Authorize a strike (Passed by 92%)

    4-25-18: Email from Mindy Kornberg: Notification of preparation for a possible ASE work stoppage to faculty and staff

    4-30-18: Current ASE contract expired

    5-4-18: Graduate student ASEs presented at ESS Faculty Meeting

    5-7-18: Graduate student ASEs sent letter to ESS Faculty regarding contract negotiations and possible work stoppage

    5-8-18: Graduate student/Chairs Town Hall regarding possible UAW Job Action

    5-10-18: UAW Local 4121/UW ASE rally

    5-11-18: Graduate student ASEs sent letter to ESS Undergraduates regarding one-day strike on May 15

    5-15-18: UAW Local 4121/UW ASE One-Day Strike

    Read More
  • A Kilauea eruption like no other | Physics Today
    Friday, May 18, 2018
    The famously active Kilauea volcano in Hawaii typically erupts at existing fissures and triggers minor earthquakes. This latest event has no such limitations. George Bergantz, a UW professor of Earth and space sciences, is quoted. Read More
  • Mt. St. Helens and Hawaii, is their activity related?
    Tuesday, May 15, 2018
    Prof. George Bergantz was interviewed on King5 News about the similarities and differences between Mt. St. Helens and Kilauea in Hawaii. Read More
  • Satellite photos show Hawaii volcano leaking lava, toxic gas | NBC News
    Tuesday, May 15, 2018
    New photos taken by a NASA satellite offer a unique perspective on the continuing eruption of Hawaii's Kilauea volcano. George Bergantz, a UW professor of Earth and space sciences, is quoted. Read More
  • Activity at Kilauea brings renewed attention to volcanic hazards in Washington State
    Tuesday, May 8, 2018
    Prof. George Bergantz was recently interview regarding the sudden change in eruptive activity at Kilauea volcano and implications for Cascade volcanoes. Read More