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On the line -- Studying West Antarctic Ice Cores

Measuring and cutting a WAIS Divide ice core at the National Ice Core Lab near Denver.

Measuring and cutting a WAIS Divide ice core at the National Ice Core Lab near Denver.

August 24, 2010

In one small corner of the sprawling Denver Federal Center campus in suburban Lakewood, Colorado, about a dozen people, bundled up in thickly insulated Carhartt jumpsuits, wool caps, scarves and gloves, are slicing and dicing ice.

And not just any ice. This is ice from Antarctica, extracted from the middle of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) by the world's most advanced ice-coring drill. Researchers from across the United States will eventually analyze various properties of the ice to reconstruct the last 100,000 years of climatic and atmospheric conditions.

The results will lead to one of the most detailed histories of the last glacial period, when ice sheets blanketed parts of North America. The information about the past will also help scientists better understand the links between climate change and greenhouse gases, as the world continues to warm in the 21st century.

Read more about ice core research and the research being conducted in West Antarctica in "On the line" by Peter Rejcek in the Antarctic Sun, the U.S. Antarctic Program's online magazine, at

The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2023 budget of $9.5 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

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