An ice core from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet Divide project. (Credit: Heidi Roop / NSF)
Researchers with the West Antarctic Ice Sheet Divide project have discovered an ice core with more than 68,000 years of climate history, according to a release from the National Science Foundation. Scientists say the core reveals how past climate changes started in the Arctic and spread across Earth to reach Antarctica.
The study, published in the journal Nature, uses levels of methane and sea salt to predict that climate changes represented in the core occurred in less than 20 years. That is abnormally fast when compared to other data covering the last 10,000 years. Still, scientists note that the data don’t challenge changes seen in our climate today.
Abrupt climate changes during the ice age were regional in scope and caused by large-scale changes in ocean circulation, researchers say. Present-day changes in temperature and precipitation are mostly caused by levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Researchers are hopeful that the new data can help climatologists improve global climate models and better understand human-induced climate changes.
Top image: An ice core from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet Divide project. (Credit: Heidi Roop / NSF)