Climate Feedback

New Antarctic base could help extend climate record back 1.5 million years


A Chinese expedition is expected to start work this week on a new Antarctic base that will faciliate novel research in climate science as well as in other fields, reports Jane Qiu over on Nature News [subscription].

The Kunlun base will be located at Dome Argus, or ‘Dome A’, some 4,093 metres above sea level. It will be China’s third Antarctic research facility and is being built as a legacy of International Polar Year, a major two-year scientific programme that comes to an end in March.

According to radar studies of the region, Dome A sits atop ice over 3,000 metres thick. Scientists hope that extracting ice cores of that depth at this particular site could extend the record of past climate changes back to 1.5 million years. Qiu writes:

A key focus of research is finding sites where ice cores stretching back further in time than any others could be drilled. A core obtained at a site known as Dome C — about 1,000 kilometres from Dome A (see map) — reached 3,200 metres deep and helped to reconstruct past climate going back 800,000 years. Many believe that Dome A promises older ice because it is higher and has less snow, meaning that researchers can get more years of climate records in a given thickness of ice.

Work on the station is expected to be completed by January 28, before temperatures drop tobelow –50 °C. At that stage it will have room for 25 people, with 11 sleeping units. I’m guessing they use that rotational bed-sharing system scientists sometimes use at sea?

Olive Heffernan

Image:P. Huybrechts, Vrije Universiteit Brussel


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