Scientists Explore Moving Glacier Ice to Antarctica for Safekeeping

In a bid to preserve records of atmospheric activity, climate scientists are looking to transport ice from the planet's mountainous regions, such as the Alps, all the way to Antarctica.

In a bid to preserve records of atmospheric activity, climate scientists are looking to transport ice from the planet's mountainous regions, such as the Alps, all the way to Antarctica. As the Earth continues to warm, researchers fear that mountain glaciers will continue to melt, and that means losing precious information about how the Earth has formed over the last thousands of years.


Mountain glaciers, enormous and slowly flowing rivers of ice, are the result of up to 18,000 years of snowfall, and trapped between the individual snowflakes that helped glaciers form are tiny pockets of air. Each air bubble is a small time capsule, containing a piece of ancient atmosphere. 

The French National Centre for Scientific Research is leading the charge in the Alps, where the temperature increased 1.5 degrees Celsius between 1994 and 2005. When top layers of ice melt, the water travels downward, filling the air pockets and erasing them from the climate record. Jerome Chappellaz, a member of the French research body, said:

"We are probably the only scientific community whose archive is in danger of disappearing from the face of the planet. If you work on corals, on marine sediments, on tree rings, the raw material is still here and will be for many centuries."

Teams will drill some 130 meters deep to preserve cores of ice that reflect atmospheric records going back millennia. Once in Antarctica, researchers are confident that the ice will remain frozen for decades if not centuries. Using industrial freezers, which is how many ice cores are currently preserved, is risky because of possible power outages and mechanical failure.

Preserving ice from past centuries will also allow climate scientists to better predict how changing CO2 levels will affect life on Earth going forward. James Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, outlines how and when the accumulation of greenhouse gases will make Earth uninhabitable for our species — and why human life cannot be transferred to a different planet.

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less
Photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash
Mind & Brain

Do human beings have a magnetic sense? Biologists know other animals do. They think it helps creatures including bees, turtles and birds navigate through the world.

Keep reading Show less

The culprit of increased depression among teens? Smartphones, new research suggests.

A new study, led by psychologist Jean Twenge, points to the screen as the problem.

A teenager eyes her smartphone as people enjoy a warm day on the day of silence, one day prior to the presidential elections, when candidates and political parties are not allowed to voice their political meaning on April 14, 2018 in Kotor, Montenegro. Citizens from Montenegro, the youngest NATO member, will vote for a new president on Sunday 15 2018. (Photo by Pierre Crom/Getty Images)
Surprising Science
  • In a new study, adolescents and young adults are experiencing increased rates of depression and suicide attempts.
  • The data cover the years 2005–2017, tracking perfectly with the introduction of the iPhone and widespread dissemination of smartphones.
  • Interestingly, the highest increase in depressive incidents was among individuals in the top income bracket.
Keep reading Show less

U.S. reacts to New Zealand's gun ban

On Thursday, New Zealand moved to ban an array of semi-automatic guns and firearms components following a mass shooting that killed 50 people.

(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Gun control supporters are pointing to the ban as an example of swift, decisive action that the U.S. desperately needs.
  • Others note the inherent differences between the two nations, arguing that it is a good thing that it is relatively hard to pass such legislation in such a short timeframe.
  • The ban will surely shape future conversations about gun control in the U.S.
Keep reading Show less