STC: Center for OLDest Ice EXploration

PI Institute/Department Email
Brook, Edward
Oregon State University, Department of Geosciences
Funding Agency
Program Manager Funding Agency Email
Cutler, Dr. Paul
NSF, Office of Polar Programs
Cryosphere; Instrument Development
Science Summary

Cores drilled through the Antarctic ice sheet provide a remarkable window on the evolution of Earth’s climate and unique samples of the ancient atmosphere. The clear link between greenhouse gases and climate revealed by ice cores underpins much of the scientific understanding of climate change. Unfortunately, the existing data do not extend far enough back in time to reveal key features of climates warmer than today. COLDEX, the Center for Oldest Ice Exploration, will solve this problem by exploring Antarctica for sites to collect the oldest possible record of past climate recorded in the ice sheet. COLDEX will provide critical information for understanding how Earth’s near-future climate may evolve and why climate varies over geologic time. New technologies will be developed for exploration and analysis that will have a long legacy for future research. An archive of old ice will stimulate new research for the next generations of polar scientists. COLDEX programs will galvanize that next generation of polar researchers, bring new results to other scientific disciplines and the public, and help to create a more inclusive and diverse scientific community.

Knowledge of Earth’s climate history is grounded in the geologic record. This knowledge is gained by measuring chemical, biological and physical properties of geologic materials that reflect elements of climate. Ice cores retrieved from polar ice sheets play a central role in this science and provide the best evidence for a strong link between atmospheric carbon dioxide and climate on geologic timescales. The goal of COLDEX is to extend the ice-core record of past climate to at least 1.5 million years by drilling and analyzing a continuous ice core in East Antarctica, and to much older times using discontinuous ice sections at the base and margin of the ice sheet. COLDEX will develop and deploy novel radar and melt-probe tools to rapidly explore the ice, use ice-sheet models to constrain where old ice is preserved, conduct ice coring, develop new analytical systems, and produce novel paleoclimate records from locations across East Antarctica. The search for Earth’s oldest ice also provides a compelling narrative for disseminating information about past and future climate change and polar science to students, teachers, the media, policy makers and the public. COLDEX will engage and incorporate these groups through targeted professional development workshops, undergraduate research experiences, a comprehensive communication program, annual scientific meetings, scholarships, and broad collaboration nationally and internationally. COLDEX will provide a focal point for efforts to increase diversity in polar science by providing field, laboratory, mentoring and networking experiences for students and early career scientists from groups underrepresented in STEM, and by continuous engagement of the entire COLDEX community in developing a more inclusive scientific culture.

Logistics Summary

The Center for OLDest Ice Exploration (COLDEX) project seeks to develop means to measure vertical dust profiles in ice sheets up to 3 km thick using a thermal melt probe. Researchers will field-test a new device at Summit Station, Greenland for future use on the ice sheet in East Antarctica.

In 2023, a team of three participants will travel to Summit Station and remain on-site for approximately one month. During that time, they will work in an area of about 150 meters NE of the Summit Mobile Garage, to lower their electrically heated melt probe to a depth of 3 km. The probe and its wire to the surface will remain permanently in the ice. Continuous power will be provided via a generator at the site. A wireless network connection at the science site and provision of static IP addresses will allow the on-duty science team member to monitor the melt probe and generator from elsewhere on station.

Battelle ARO will provide Air National Guard coordination for passengers and cargo, Summit Station user days, KISS user days, generators, fuel, communications gear, field safety gear, limited Summit science technician and field coordinator labor support. The PIs will organize and pay for all other arrangements, including all domestic travel and shipping, cold weather clothing and sleep equipment, and appropriate PPE and safety equipment.

Season Field Site #People
Greenland - Summit