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Author: Nicky Phillips
Date: 29 October, 2013

Flickr/ Horacio Lyon

Australia will lead a mission to the heart of Antarctica this summer to drill several ice cores that will be used to fill gaps in scientist’s understanding of recent climate records.

The ambitious six-week Australian Antarctic Division-led project will take 24 international scientists to Aurora basin in east Antarctica, 550 kilometres inland from Casey Station.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt and AAD scientists announced details of the project, which will run from December to January, in Hobart on Monday.

The team will drill three ice cores, one 400-metre core with data between 2000 and 3000 years old, and two 120-metre cores, which will cover atmospheric conditions over the past 1000 years.

Data obtained from these ice cores will include greenhouse gas level, pollutants and past temperature records and will provide detailed information about how Antarctica’s climate has changed in recent millennia.

Project leader and Australian Antarctic Division senior glaciologist Mark Curran said the ice core information would also help scientists identify linkages between Antarctic and Australian climate.

The Aurora basin project will be a huge logistical exercise that requires almost all equipment to be traversed across more than 1300 kilometres of ice cap.

With the assistance of the French Antarctic Program about 26 tonnes of camp and drilling gear will be hauled to the site from the French base at Dumont d’Urville. AAD head of climate processes and change Tas van Ommen will join the traverse, which is expected to take 12 to 15 days and climb more than 2500 metres.

”At Aurora Basin, we can expect temperatures ranging from between -25 to -30 degrees on a good day,” Dr van Ommen said.

Although scientists have been extracting ice cores for more than two decades, there remains specific gaps in the data from Antarctica.

In 2005, an international group of ice core scientists identified several types of ice core that were needed, including an array of cores covering the past 2000 years in Antarctica and a million-year-old core.

Read article at The Sydney Morning Herald