What’s in an ice core? That seems like an odd question. But essentially, that is what we are trying to figure out. We use climate records from ice cores all the time to learn about the past climate and its variability and they are amongst the most important contributors to our understanding of how the Earth’s climate has changed over time. So, shouldn’t we know “what’s in an ice core”? Yes, we do. But what is still an open issue is if we can interpret ice-core records at shorter time scales, say decades to years. To answer this question, we set out with the help of the SPI Polar Access Fund to drill one of a few shallow ice cores In Northeast Greenland during the 2019 summer season.

Even though having worked with ice core samples for all of my scientific career, actually drilling a core myself was a completely new adventure. It posed a bunch of interesting and challenging problems along the way. But with the help of some experienced people from our partners in Denmark all problems from logistical to mechanical were solved along the way. In the end we managed to drill down to 80 m depth and with a bit of luck, the ice at the bottom of the core will be from the beginning of the 18th century.

The biggest and somewhat strange issue we ran into, was that it was just too warm during the day to drill. If it is relatively warm (-5 to -10 degrees) and sunny the drill gets warmed up by the sun and can get stuck in the bore hole. To avoid that risk, we had to work during the night. Even though the sun is still quite high up in the sky during the polar summer nights, temperatures are much, much cooler. Even though this meant missing out on a lot of sleep, the spirit during the after-dinner drilling sessions was always great. We were treated to spectacular light and the quiet night-time camp atmosphere with most of the others in camp resting…

By Tobias Erhardt, Polar Access Fund Grantee 2019

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