South Pole Ice Core

ABOUT

Project Overview

The South Pole ice core project is a U.S. effort funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to drill and recover a new ice core from South Pole, Antarctica. The ice core will be drilled to a depth of 1500 meters and provide records of stable isotopes, aerosols, and atmospheric gases spanning approximately 40,000 years. 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. Drilling is planned for the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 field seasons, and a new intermediate-depth drill will be used to recover the ice core.


Additional Reading


Going deep – Drilling project to retrieve longest ice core ever from South Pole
The Antarctic Sun
March 26, 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 and is led by Jay Johnson (drill development) and Tanner Kuhl (lead driller).

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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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Schedule

Figure 2 shows the schedule for the project.


schedule for south pole 1500 m ice core project

Figure 2. Generalized schedule for the South Pole ice core project. Download schedule


Drilling is planned for the 2014-2015 (from 0 to ~700 m / through the Holocene) and 2015-2016 (from ~700 to 1500 m / 40,000 years) field seasons. The goal is to install the drill, drill to 700 meters depth, and retrograde all non-brittle ice (nominally 0-500 m) during the first season (2014-2015). The goal for the second season (2015-2016) is to finish drilling to 1500 m depth, retrograde all of the brittle ice that wintered-over from the previous season (500-700 m), retrograde all of the newly drilled ductile ice (1300-1500 m), winter-over the newly drilled brittle ice (700-1300 m), and uninstall the drill. While the only activity currently scheduled for the 2017-2018 field season is to retrograde the previous season's wintered-over brittle ice, the project has received permission from ASC to use the season to finish drilling in the event that we are unable to reach 1500m by the end of the 2016-2017 season.

Core processing lines will be held at the National Ice Core Laboratory during the summers of 2015, 2016 and 2017.

The first planning workshop for the project was held in February 2013 in Boulder, CO, and the second planning workshop was held in February 2014 in Irvine, CA. Science workshops for funded PIs will be held in the fall of 2015, 2016 and 2017.

In late April – early June 2014 the new Intermediate-Depth Drill will be field tested in Greenland at the new Isi Station (~5 km NE of Summit).

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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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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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South Pole Field Operations

Field operations will be carried-out by a ten-person field team operating 24 hours/day, 6 days/week, with 3 people per shift (2 drillers, 1 core handler). The field team will be housed at Elevated Station and commute daily (~2.7 km) to the drill site.

The U.S. Ice Drilling Program's new Intermediate-Depth Drill (IDD) will be used to recover the ice core. The IDD is much smaller and more mobile than the drill used on the recently completed WAIS Divide ice core project. An un-insulated WeatherPORT will house the drilling and core handling operations, and will remain standing between drilling seasons.


Figure 3. The Intermediate-Depth Drill's tilting tower and winch, shown above, is a brand new design by IDDO using a lot of new technological advances from the DISC Drill. The tower is modular allowing it to fit inside a Twin Otter or similar sized aircraft. Drawing courtesy of Jay Johnson (IDDO/UW-Madison).



Figure 4. SolidWorks rendering (left) and photos (right) of the un-insulated WeatherPORT for housing the drilling and core processing operations. The WeatherPORT tent is 19.5m L x 4.9m W x 2.8m H (64' x 16' x 9') and covers a trench that is 15m L x 4.6m W x 1.5m D (49' x 15' x 4.9'). Not shown is an underground ice core storage area 7.6m L x 4.6m W (25' x 15') that comes off of the ice core packing area. The tent is steel-framed and is rated for 65 knot winds and 269 kg/m2 snow load.
Drawing courtesy of Jay Johnson (IDDO/UW-Madison). Photos courtesy of Tanner Kuhl (IDDO/UW-Madison). Download exterior tent photo. Download interior tent photo. Download SolidWorks rendering of tent.


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Contact Information

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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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