Center for Oldest Ice Exploration
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.
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