News Stories

What Happened Last Time?

Scientists know the Earth's magnetic poles are getting ready to flip, so they plan to study an ice core shipped from Antarctica that can tell them what happened to the Earth the last time this occurred. They'll also be able to find out what the climate was like the last time Earth was in its current orbit?without the global warming caused by manmade pollution. This will tell them how much of the current warming is natural, and how much has been caused by us.

Magdeline Pokar writes in New Scientist that the ice core dates back at least 750,000 years, making it the oldest continuous ice core ever drilled. The gases and particles trapped in the layers of the ice reveal information about the Earth's climate and atmosphere, including periods of global warming.

They identified the age of the ice core by matching up the layers to known volcanic eruptions. Now they need to find out if the layers are still in chronological order. If the ice from the area where it was taken has moved over rocks in the past, the deeper layers could have gotten out of order.

Once that's done, researchers can get down to studying the period between ice ages known as Stage 11, which occurred about 450,000 years ago, when the Earth's orbit was very similar to its orbit today. They also hope to be able to look at conditions 780,000 years ago, when the Earth's magnetic field last reversed. Researcher Eric Wolff says, "If the stratigraphy (order of the layers) is OK, we'll certainly reach the reversal."

On Dreamland, one of our missions is to unlock the secrets of the past.

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