Ice and a slice of climate history

Aug 25, 2004

The first 40 million years of Arctic climate history was recovered from beneath the Arctic sea floor on Monday 23 August.

After four days drilling in hazardous conditions the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program’s Arctic Coring Expedition retrieved a 272m core before sea ice forced the work to be abandoned.

The deepest ever Arctic borehole, just 233 kilometres from the North Pole, was interrupted late on Monday when very thick, moving ice floes meant that even the world’s most powerful icebreaker, the Russian Sovetskiy Soyuz could no longer ensure it was safe to continue coring..

The Sovetskiy Soyuz is one of two ice breakers brought in to protect the coring ship, the Vidar Viking, which must remain stationary while the cores are being taken.

While the team search for another favourable site scientists are taking the opportunity to look at the retrieved core.

Initial analyses, based on examining microfossils in the core, suggest that the some of the material in these sediments could be 40 million years old – the Middle Eocene period.

Chief co-scientist, Professor Jan Blackman, from the University of Stockholm said: “This is very exciting. For the first time we are beginning to get information about the history of ice in the central Arctic Ocean.

“This core goes back to a time when there was no ice on the planet – it was too warm. It will tell us a great deal about the climate of the region. It will tell us when it changed from hot to cold and hopefully why.”

Jan explained that back in prehistoric times life in the Arctic Ocean was much different to today. In the warmer conditions, and free from ice, life thrived in the far north. The sediments will give some indication of the type and abundance of marine creatures living in these waters at that time.

The team of international scientists are two weeks into the six-week expedition to extract the deepest Arctic sedimentary cores ever drilled. They intend coring to a depth of about 500 metres under the seabed. The previous deepest core extracted from the Arctic was only 16 metres.

On Monday afternoon, a Hercules C-130, from the Swedish Armed Forces, parachuted package of spare parts and supplies onto the site. Both still pictures and broadcast quality video were collected during this airdrop, which are available to the media. Onshore personnel are available for immediate interview, the scientists and drilling personnel may be available for interview by satellite phone by prior arrangement.

Source: Natural Environment Research Council

Explore further: Amazing raw Cassini images from this week

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Ice-free Arctic may be in our future, says research

May 09, 2013

Analyses of the longest continental sediment core ever collected in the Arctic, recently completed by an international team led by Julie Brigham-Grette of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, provide ...

Recommended for you

Amazing raw Cassini images from this week

10 hours ago

When Saturn is at its closest to Earth, it's three-quarters of a billion miles away—or more than a billion kilometers! That makes these raw images from the ringed planet all the more remarkable.

Europe launches two navigation satellites

10 hours ago

Two satellites for Europe's rival to GPS were lifted into space on Friday to boost the Galileo constellation to six orbiters of a final 30, the European Space Agency (ESA) said.

SpaceX gets 10-year tax exemption for Texas site

11 hours ago

Cameron County commissioners have agreed to waive 10 years of county taxes as part of an agreement bringing the world's first commercial site for orbital rocket launches to the southernmost tip of Texas.

Spectacular supernova's mysteries revealed

11 hours ago

(Phys.org) —New research by a team of UK and European-based astronomers is helping to solve the mystery of what caused a spectacular supernova in a galaxy 11 million light years away, seen earlier this ...

Supernova seen in two lights

12 hours ago

(Phys.org) —The destructive results of a mighty supernova explosion reveal themselves in a delicate blend of infrared and X-ray light, as seen in this image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and Chandra ...

User comments : 0