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The hunt for ancient ice that witnessed West Antarctica's collapse

Jan 08, 2020   |   Nature

Core from Hercules Dome site could reveal how susceptible the region’s ice is to warming.

"Scientists in Antarctica plan to start up their snowmobiles and begin radar surveys of a thick ridge of ice called Hercules Dome. The dome — which sits 400 kilometres from the South Pole, between East and West Antarctica — could provide crucial clues to the future of the continent’s vast ice sheet," writes Nature.

"The surveys are intended to guide the drilling of the United States’ next deep ice core. Glaciologists hope to retrieve a detailed climate record of a period 116,000 to 130,000 years ago, when temperatures as little as 1 °C warmer than today’s are thought to have driven the collapse of the West Antarctica’s ice.

"A better understanding of what happened then could help scientists to predict the behaviour of West Antarctica as climate change intensifies. ... 'The Hercules structure will have served as witness to what the atmosphere and what the oceans were doing when the West Antarctic ice sheet collapsed,' says Mary Albert, a glaciologist [engineer] at Dartmouth in Hanover, New Hampshire, and head of the US Ice Drilling Program, which advises the NSF."

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