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August 26th, 2009

INSTAAR scientists help break ice core drilling record

A new international research effort on the Greenland ice sheet--with Jim White helping lead the U.S. contribution--set a record for single-season deep ice-core drilling this summer, recovering more than a mile of ice core that is expected to help scientists better assess the risks of abrupt climate change in the future.

The project, known as the North Greenland Eemian Ice Drilling, or NEEM, is being undertaken by 14 nations and is led by the University of Copenhagen. The goal is to retrieve ice from the last interglacial episode known as the Eemian Period that ended about 120,000 years ago. The period was warmer than today, with less ice in Greenland and 15-foot higher sea levels than present--conditions similar to those Earth faces as it warms in the coming century and beyond. The team hopes to hit bedrock at 8,350 feet at the end of summer 2010, reaching ice deposited during the warm Eemian period that lasted from roughly 130,000 to 120,000 years ago before the planet began to cool and ice up once again.

Other INSTAAR participants in the NEEM effort include INSTAAR postdoctoral researcher Vasilii Petrenko and Environmental Studies Program doctoral student Tyler Jones. The U.S. effort is funded by the National Science Foundation's Office of Polar Programs.

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