THE TOP SECRET COLD WAR PROJECT THAT PULLED CLIMATE SCIENCE FROM THE ICE

WIRED | 6/12/2019 | Jon Gertner
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Drilling rigs that are customized to recover ice cores are fantastically complicated contraptions. To work properly, these machines must go a mile or two down a narrow hole, digging into the ice inch by inch. During this process, a length of core—a cylinder of ice anywhere from 3 to 10 feet—must safely be carved out of the ice sheet, gripped, severed, and pulled to the surface by a winch. Then the drill must go back down and carve deeper. For the Camp Century drilling, Henri Bader suggested creating a new kind of drill, one that would use a hollow-tipped “thermal” bit—a hot ring of metal that melted the ice as it went down and produced long cylinders of the ice core.

Keeping the ice in rigorous order would be just as crucial as a good drill. If a team lost track of the sequence in which the cores came out of the ice the scientists could lose track of climate history and jeopardize their entire experiment. For that reason, on most summer days during the early 1960s, the cores that reached the surface in Camp Century’s drilling trench were carefully bagged and logged and stored in cardboard tubes on racks against the wall.

Chet - Langway - Table - Closer - Surface

Before they were put away, however, Chet Langway would usually look them over closely on a light table. Cores that came from closer to the surface exhibited seasonal stripes, and sometimes pockets of frozen dust, suggesting remnants of an ancient volcanic eruption or dust storm. But as the drill reached farther down, the cores were less obviously marked with annual layers.

What’s more, Langway could see that some cores came to the surface hazy and loaded with bubbles, resembling cylinders of frozen milk, whereas deeper ice emerged clear like glass—only to become hazy a few weeks later as gases that...
(Excerpt) Read more at: WIRED
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