PROJECT 2: Ice Cores

Ice cores provide the most powerful tool we have to determine how the Earth’s climate has varied in the past. AAD will drill a deep ice core in the interior of Antarctica between 2021 and 2026. The AAPP will contribute to the analysis of the ice core, which has the potential to provide a climate record extending back more than one million years. Shallow cores including those recently obtained from Antarctica by Australian and international collaborations will be used to provide a detailed climate history record and quantify feedbacks between climate and atmospheric chemistry and the carbon cycle over the last few thousand years with decadal resolution.

The key science questions for this project are:

  • What does the ice-core record of past climate and carbon dioxide concentrations spanning more than 800,000 years reveal about climate and climate-carbon feedbacks?
  • How did the partitioning of carbon between different sinks (ocean, terrestrial, atmosphere) change (in volumes and rates) in the past (as resolved by isotopes of CO2 and CH4)?
  • What are the implications for future climate, sea-level and ice-sheet stability that emerge from the oldest ice record, and what do past interglacial conditions indicate as potential analogues of future warming?
  • What does the late Holocene record of Antarctic climate reveal about links between high latitude climate and the dominant climate modes that influence Australia? What does this show about the range of natural variability of Australian hydroclimate and other variables, and how does present climate compare to long-term pre-industrial climate?
  • Which key environmental parameters and climate forcings (e.g., snow accumulation, sea ice, aerosols, dust, volcanism, solar activity, and greenhouse gases) have shaped the recent millennia?