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(Last updated 10/27/09)

New Research Blog Available Here!!


NOTE TO PRODUCERS: Ohio State University has opened a new broadcast studio with Vyvx and ISDN technology, allowing us to provide quick connectivity to university researchers.  To schedule an expert, please call Joe Camoriano, (614) 378-6478, camoriano.1@osu.edu.

Images are available here to accompany this story.

Previous OSU research stories about the ice core analyses and paleoclimatology:

"Snows Of Kilimanjaro Shrinking Rapidly, And Likely To Be Lost," 10/27/09.

"Ancient Drought and Rapid Cooling Drastically Altered Climate," 6/18/09.

"Missing Radioactivity In Ice Cores Bodes Ill For Part Of Asia," 11/18.08.

"New Tibetan Ice Cores Missing A-Bomb Blast Markers; Suggest Himalayan Ice Fields Haven't Grown In Last 50 Years," 12/7/07.

"Peruvian Glacier May Vanish In Five Years," 2/12/07.

"First Compilation Of Tropical Ice Cores Shows Two Abrupt Global Climate Shifts -- One 5,000 Years Ago and One Currently Underway," 6/8/06.

"Snows Of Kilimanjaro Disappearing, Glacial Ice Loss Increasing," 2/13/06.

"New Plant Finds In Andes Foretell Of Ancient Climate Change," 9/14/05.

"50,000-Year-old Plant May Warn Of The Death Of Tropical Ice Caps," 12/11/04.

"Ice Cores Disagree On Origin Of White River Ash Deposit," 12/10/04.

"Major Climate Change Occurred 5,200 Years Ago: Evidence Suggests That History Could Repeat Itself," 12/13/04.

"Ice Cores May Yield Clues To 5,000-Year-Old Mystery," 11/6/03.

"African Ice Core Analysis Reveals Catastrophic Droughts, Shrinking Ice Fields And Civilization Shifts," 9/17/02.

"Latest Ice Core May Solve Mystery Of Ancient Volcanic Eruptions," 6/27/02

"Ice Coring Team Heads For Alaskan Glaciers; Hope To Retrieve First North American Long-Term Climate Record From Ice," 4/21/02

Ice Caps In Africa, Tropical South America Likely To Disappear Within 15 Years, 2/12/01

Himalyan Ice Cores Reveal Climate Warming, Catastrophic Drought, (9/8/00)

Oldest Ice Core From The Tropics Recovered, New Ice Age Evidence, (12/3/98)

Researchers In Himalayas Retrieve Highest Ice Core Ever Drilled, (11/21/97)

Researchers Date Chinese Ice Core To 500,000 Years, (6/12/97)

Latest Evidence Of Global Warming Found In Tropics And Subtropics, (4/23/97)

Ice Cores Show Record Of Climate Dating Back 20,000 Years, (7/26/95)

Chinese Ice Cores Provide Climate Records Of Four Ice Ages, (11/30/92)

Evidence Of Global Warming Reported To Senate Hearing, (3/6/92)

Chinese Ice Cap May Reveal Clues To Earth's Climate, (7/2/91)

Recent recognitions of OSU's paleoclimatology research group:

"Lonnie Thompson To Receive National Medal Of Science," 5/29/07.

"Tyler Prize For Environmental Achievement Taps Lonnie Thompson," 3/22/05.

Time Magazine, CNN Name OSU Geologist One Of "America's Best"

Time Magazine coverage of that citation, 9/18/02

Glaciologist Thompson To Receive Prestigious Heineken Award," 4/21/02.

NEWLY DRILLED ICE CORES MAY BE THE LONGEST TAKEN FROM THE ANDES

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Researchers spent two months this summer high in the Peruvian Andes and brought back two cores, the longest ever drilled from ice fields in the tropics.

Ohio State glaciologist Lonnie Thompson said that this latest expedition focused on a yet-to-be-named ice field 5,364 meters (17,598 feet) above sea level in the Cordillera Blanca mountain range.

Lonnie Thompson

Photo by Thomas Nash

The researchers hiked to a col, or saddle, between two adjacent peaks – Hualcán and Copa – set up camp and used a ground sensing radar to map the ice depths across the glacier .  They then drilled two cores through the thickest part of the ancient ice to bedrock, capturing the entire climate record at this site.

One of the cores measured 196 meters (643 feet) while the other totaled 189 meters (620 feet).  Thompson said that the initial visual inspection of the cores showed that they contained a number of insects and plant materials that may have blown up onto the glacier from the Amazon Basin.

“I’ve never seen so many of what appear to be plants and insects in any of the ice cores we’ve previously drilled,” he said.  “We should be able to identify them and use carbon-14 to date them.

“This will help us determine the age of the ice in the core. These cores also contain very distinct bubble-free, or clear, ice near the bottom which suggests very warm conditions in the past.  The cores only arrived back to the freezers at OSU a few weeks ago so we have lots of work to do.”

Thompson, a professor of earth sciences at Ohio State and research scientist at the Byrd Polar Research Center, said that his team did a preliminary analysis for oxygen isotopes and dust particles from a 10-meter (33-foot) section of the core.  These results confirmed that the core contains an annually resolvable record of the climate conditions at the site.

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“This was the last opportunity anyone will have to drill at this site. The warming temperatures there cause melting that compromises the quality of records preserved in the ice.  Any future drilling efforts will have to be at colder, and higher, elevations to minimize the impact of melting that can obscure the climate record."


The ratio of oxygen isotopes in the ice allows researchers to determine whether temperatures were warmer or cooler when the snow that eventually turned to ice was deposited on the glacier. The dust content gives scientists clues about the rate of precipitation at the site.

“This was the last opportunity anyone will have to drill at this site,” Thompson said .  “The warming temperatures there cause melting that compromises the quality of records preserved in the ice.  Any future drilling efforts will have to be at colder, and higher, elevations to minimize the impact of melting that can obscure the climate record. Unfortunately there are very few good drill sites above 5364 meters (17,598) in the Cordillera Blanca.”

The Paleoclimate Program of the National Science Foundation provided much of the support for this research project, along with the Ohio State University Climate, Water and Carbon program.

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Contact:  Lonnie Thompson, (614) 292-6652; Thompson.3@osu.edu
Written by Earle Holland, (614) 292-8384: Holland.8@#osu.edu