Project Information
Collaborative research: Snapshots of Early and Mid-Pleistocene Climate and Atmospheric Composition from the Allan Hills Blue Ice Area
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Allan Hills
Between about 2.8-0.9 Ma, Earth’s climate was characterized by 40 kyr cycles, driven or paced by changes in the tilt of Earth’s spin axis. Much is known about the 40k world from studies of deep-sea sediments, but our understanding of climate change during this period and the transition between the 40kyr glacial cycles from 2.8-0.9 Ma and the 100kyr glacial cycles of the last 0.9 Myr is incomplete because we lack records of Antarctic climate and direct records of atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations. We propose to address these issues by building on our recent studies of >1 Ma ice discovered in shallow ice cores in the Allan Hills Blue Ice Area (BIA), Antarctica. During the 2015-2016 field season we recovered ice from two nearby drill cores that dates to > 2 million years in age using the 40Ar/38Ar ratio of the trapped gases. Our discovery of ice of this antiquity in two cores demonstrates that there is gas-record quality ice from the 40k world in the Allan Hills BIA. To further characterize the composition of Earth’s atmosphere and Antarctic climate during the 40k world we request support for two field seasons to drill new large-volume (4” or 9” diameter) ice cores at sites where we have previously identified >1 Ma ice and nearby sites where ground penetrating radar has identified bedrock features conducive to the preservation of old ice.
Person Role
Mayewski, Paul A. Investigator and contact
Kurbatov, Andrei V. Investigator and contact
Brook, Edward J. Investigator
Severinghaus, Jeffrey P. Investigator
Higgins, John Investigator
Antarctic Glaciology Award # 1745007
Antarctic Glaciology Award # 1745006
Antarctic Glaciology Award # 1744993
Antarctic Glaciology Award # 1744832
Antarctic Glaciology Award # 0838843
Collaborative Research: Exploring A 2 Million + Year Ice Climate Archive-Allan Hills Blue Ice Area (2MBIA)


This award supports a project to generate an absolute timescale for the Allan Hills Blue Ice Area (BIA), and then to reconstruct details of past climate changes and greenhouse gas concentrations for certain time periods back to 2.5 Ma. Ice ages will be determined by applying emerging methods for absolute and relative dating of trapped air bubbles (based on Argon-40/Argon-38, delta-18O of O2, and the O2/N2 ratio). To demonstrate the potential of the Allan Hills BIAs as a paleoclimate archive trenches and ice cores will be collected for age intervals corresponding to 110-140 ka, 1 Ma, and 2.5 Ma. During the proposed two field seasons a total of 6x100 m and additional 15 m cores will be combined with trenching. The intellectual merit of the proposed activity is that the results of this work will extend the landmark work of EPICA and other deep ice coring efforts, which give records dating back to 0.8 Ma, and will complement work planned by IPICS to drill a continuous Antarctic ice core extending to 1.5 Ma. The results will help to advance understanding of major climate regimes and transitions that took place between 0-2.5 Ma, including the 40 kyr world and the mid-Pleistocene climate transition. A major long-term scientific goal is to provide a transformative approach to the collection of paleoclimate records by establishing an "International Climate Park" in the Allan Hills BIA that would enable sampling of large quantities of known age ice as old as 2.5 Ma, by any interested American or foreign investigator. The broader impacts resulting from the proposed activity include training students who are well versed in advanced field, laboratory and numerical modeling methods combining geochemistry, glaciology, and paleoclimatology. We will include material relevant to our proposed research in our ongoing efforts in local education and in our outreach efforts for media. The University of Maine already has cyberinfrastructure, using state of the art web-based technology, which can provide a wide community of scientists with fast access to the results of our research. The work will contribute to the broad array of climate change studies that is informing worldwide understanding of natural and anthropogenic forced climate change, and the options for responding. This award has field work in Antarctica.

AMD - DIF Record(s)
Data Management Plan
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1 (processed data)
  1. Higgins, J.A., Kurbatov, A.V., Spaulding, N.E., Brook, E., Introne, D.S., Chimiak, L.M., Yan, Y., Mayewski, P.A. and Bender, M.L., 2015. Atmospheric composition 1 million years ago from blue ice in the Allan Hills, Antarctica. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(22), pp.6887-6891. (doi:10.1073/pnas.1420232112)
  2. Shackleton, S., Seltzer, A., Baggenstos, D., & Lisiecki, L. E. (2023). Benthic δ18O records Earth’s energy imbalance. Nature Geoscience. (doi:10.1038/s41561-023-01250-y)
Platforms and Instruments

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