South Pole Ice Core

ABOUT

Project Overview

The stable isotope, aerosol, and atmospheric gas records in ice cores provide exceptional archives of past climate. Supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation Office of Polar Programs, a new ~50,000-year long ice core was recovered from South Pole during the 2014-2015 field season (0 to 736 meters) and 2015-2016 field season (736 to 1751 meters) using the new U.S. Intermediate Depth Drill. The South Pole site preserves unique climate records by combining cold temperatures typical of East Antarctica with a relatively high accumulation rate due to West Antarctic influence. The South Pole ice core extends the international array of ice cores used to investigate environmental change since the last glacial/interglacial transition. The scientific goal is to assess and understand changes in atmospheric chemistry, climate, and biogeochemistry.


Additional Reading


Getting to the Bottom of SPICECORE – Researchers drill deep into the ice beneath the South Pole to sample Earth's ancient atmosphere
The Antarctic Sun
April 12, 2016
Read story


Going deep – Drilling project to retrieve longest ice core ever from South Pole
The Antarctic Sun
March 26, 2015
Read story


Scientists drilling first deep ice core at the South Pole
University of Washington Press Release
January 20, 2015
Read story


SPICE-ing it up – New project plans to retrieve South Pole ice core beginning in 2014-15
The Antarctic Sun
March 8, 2013
Read story

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Project Organization

With support from NSF's Division of Polar Programs, UC-Irvine (Aydin–Lead PI), University Washington (Steig) and the University of New Hampshire (Twickler and Souney) – with assistance from NASA-GSFC (Neumann) – provide the overall scientific coordination for the project, which includes site selection, field operations, core processing at the National Ice Core Laboratory, data management, and communications/workshops.

Logistical support is provided by NSF's Antarctic Infrastructure and Logistics program and is managed by Leah Street with the Antarctic Support Contract (ASC). Drilling support is provided by the U.S. Ice Drilling Program.

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Timeline

Figure 2 shows the timeline of major project activities.


schedule for south pole 1500 m ice core project

Figure 2. Timeline of major project activities for the South Pole ice core project. Download timeline


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South Pole Field Operations

Below is a summary of the major field operations at South Pole, as well as each field season's weekly Situation Report (SITREP) files.

Field season Major activities SITREP
2014 Greenland
  • Field test of the Intermediate Depth Drill and core handling/processing system (4/20/2015 - 6/14/2015)
Driller
2013-2014
  • Southbound ASC shipment of drilling fluid via vessel to the Ice
  • Southbound I−164-S shipment of drill casing via vessel to the Ice
  • GPR survey (conducted by ASC) of drill site
  • Preparation of road(s) to drill site
  • Preparation of the areas that will house the generator tent and the warming tent
[none]
2014-2015
  • Transportation of drill fluid, and ISC boxes and ice core tubes already pre−staged at MCM to South Pole
  • Excavation of the drilling and core storage trenches
  • Establishment of drill camp structures
  • Installation of the Intermediate Depth Drill (IDD) and the overlying WeatherPORT tent
  • Drilling with the IDD to 736 meters depth
    • dry drilled from 0−160 meters; reamed holed; cased hole to 130 meters; wet drilled from 160-736 meters
  • Retrograded firn/ice from 5-584 meters to CONUS
  • Stored ice from 585-736 meters over winter at South Pole
  • Winterized drill camp
Science | Driller
2015-2016
  • Transportation of drill fluid, and ISC boxes and ice core tubes to South Pole
  • Packed and retrograded the winter over ice from 585-734 meters
  • Drilling with the IDD from 736-1751 meters depth
  • Retrograded newly drilled (non-brittle) ice from 1078-1462 meters depth to CONUS
  • Stored brittle ice from 735-1077 meters over winter at South Pole
  • Stored newly drilled ductile from 1478-1750 meters over winter at South Pole
  • Winterized drill camp
Science | Driller
2016-2017
  • Packed and retrograded ductile ice from 1478-1750 meters
  • Cut, packed, and retrograded brittle ice from 735-1077 meters
  • Conducted two temperature logs and one video log of the borehole
  • PI Ryan Bay (I-194-S) conducted two laser dust logs of the borehole
  • Deconstructed and retrograded remaining drill equipment, core handling equipment, and drill tent
  • Decommissioned drill site
Science | Driller
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Funded Projects

The following projects are funded by the National Science Foundation to analyze the ice and interpret its records.



Funded Projects Related to the South Pole Ice Core

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Proposals to Analyze the Ice Core

U.S. investigators submitting proposals requiring ice from the South Pole ice core should contact the South Pole ice core Science Coordination Office (SCO) prior to submitting. The SCO will provide a letter for inclusion with the proposals, assessing whether the ice core request is consistent with the South Pole ice core operation plan. To initiate the process, investigators should submit a SAMPLE REQUEST FORM to the SCO. Sample requests may take up to 6 weeks to process depending on the complexity of the request and other workloads.

If the SCO approves your Sample Request, the SCO will provide you with a Letter of Support stating that your proposal is consistent with the South Pole ice core operation plan. ** The Letter of Support needs to be submitted with your NSF proposal. **

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Site Selection

During FFY 2013, Tom Neumann & Kimberly Casey (NASA-GSFC) and TJ Fudge & Eric Steig (University of Washington) led site selection activities using existing radar, accumulation, ice core, flow velocity, depth-age and surface elevation data. After reviewing the existing glaciological data, and after discussions with NSF and ASC regarding logistical considerations, a drill site for the South Pole ice core was established and approved by NSF in August 2013. The following paper in Annals of Glaciology talks about the site selection:

Casey KA, Fudge TJ, Neumann TA, Steig EJ, Cavitte MGP and Blankenship DD (2014) The 1500 m South Pole ice core: recovering a 40,000 year environmental record. Annals of Glaciology, 55(68), 137-146 (doi: 10.3189/2014AoG68A016)


Figure 1a. Map of Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. The approximate location of the South Pole ice core drill site is marked with the red circle and labeled 'DRILL SITE'. The drill site is roughly 2.7 km travel distance from Elevated Station.



Figure 1b. Radar image of Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. The approximate location of the South Pole ice core drill site is marked with the red circle and labeled 'DRILL SITE'. The drill site is roughly 2.7 km travel distance from Elevated Station. Download graphic



Figure 1c. Map of drill-site location relative to dark, clean-air, quiet and downwind sectors, existing firn- and ice-core studies, ice flow velocity and prevailing wind direction. Previous firn- (green) and ice (red)-core retrieval locations are marked on the map, described by reference publications as follows: EMT core (Mosley-Thompson, 1980), Gow core (Kuivinen, 1983) and 2002 firn core (Aydin and others, 2008) Download graphic


The drill site is in the Dark Sector at roughly 89°59'S, 98°9'W approximately 200 meters perpendicular off the Road to ARA Wind Turbine 3 Test Bed (Figure 1a, 1b and 1c). The site is roughly 2.7 km travel distance from Elevated Station.

During the 2013-2014 field season, ASC conducted a 330 m x 330 m rectangular grid high-frequency ground penetrating radar (GPR) survey centered on 89.98S, 95.10W. The primary motivation for the GPR survey was to assess the potential for buried debris at or near the drilling site from the past ~50 years of station operations. Results indicate smooth and continuous layering, with no obvious disturbances in the upper 15 m on any of the profiles within the drilling area.

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Contact Information

The best way to stay informed about the South Pole ice core is by subscribing to our email list using the form below.


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** You can contact the entire South Pole ice core team shown below via contact "at"" spicecore "dot" org


Dr. Murat Aydin
Lead PI
Dept. of Earth System Science
University of California-Irvine
949.824.5693 maydin "at" uci "dot" edu
Dr. Eric Steig Dept. Earth and Space Sciences / University of Washington 206.685.3715 steig "at" uw "dot" edu
Dr. TJ Fudge Dept. Earth and Space Sciences / University of Washington 206.543.0162 tjfudge "at" uw "dot" edu
Dr. Tom Neumann Goddard Space Flight Center / NASA 301.614.5923 thomas "dot" neumann "at" nasa "dot" gov
Mr. Mark Twickler Inst. Study of Earth, Oceans and Space
University of New Hampshire
603.862.1991 mark "dot" twickler "at" unh "dot" edu
Mr. Joe Souney Inst. Study of Earth, Oceans and Space
University of New Hampshire
603.862.0591 joseph "dot" souney "at" unh "dot" edu
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