Do you see the bubbles in this piece of Antarctic ice? The bubbles contain carbon dioxide and other gases that were trapped in the ice when formed thousands of years ago. Researchers carefully crush the piece and capture the gases that escape when the bubbles break. This allows them to better understand what carbon dioxide levels were over time.
Click on image for full size
Courtesy of Oregon State University
Gas From the Past Gives Scientists New Insights into Climate and the Oceans
News story originally written on October 3, 2008
What was the atmosphere like over 20,000 years ago? Scientists have been studying ancient air to find out.
The ancient air is within tiny bubbles in 390 samples of ice from Antarctica. The bubbles tell what Earth's atmosphere was like 20,000 to 90,000 years ago.
Scientists studied how much carbon dioxide was in the bubbles. They compared the data with information about what Earth’s climate was like in the past. They also compared the carbon dioxide levels from the ancient air with information about what the ocean circulation was like at the time.
What did they find? They found that samples of ancient air that had more carbon dioxide were from times when Earth’s temperature was higher. They also found that these were times when ocean currents did not flow as quickly.
If it has happened in the past, it may happen in the future, say the scientists. So we might see changes in ocean currents in the future as the amount of greenhouse gases continues to grow and the greenhouse effect gets stronger.
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
Learn about Earth and space science, and have fun while doing it! The games
section of our online store
includes a climate change card game
and the Traveling Nitrogen game
You might also be interested in:
Frozen water is found in many different places on Earth. Snow blankets the ground at mid and high latitudes during winter. Sea ice and icebergs float in the chilly waters of polar oceans. Ice shelves are...more
Antarctica is the coldest, windiest, and driest continent on Earth. It is about one and a half times the size of the United States. Almost all of Antarctica is covered with a thick layer of ice called...more
How do you know to pack your bathing suit and sunhat for a trip to a tropical island or pack warm sweaters and coats for a trip to Alaska? If you know a little about regional climates, then you know what...more
The world’s oceans, the Pacific, the Atlantic, the Indian, the Arctic, and the Southern Ocean, have different names, but they are really not that different. Water moves between them all the time. So they...more
Scientists have learned that Mount Hood, Oregon's tallest mountain, has erupted in the past due to the mixing of two different types of magma. Adam Kent, a geologist at Oregon State University, says this...more
The Earth's mantle is a rocky, solid shell that is between the Earth's crust and the outer core. The mantle is made up of many different reservoirs that have different chemical compositions. Scientists...more
Some faults look strong and like they wouldn’t cause an earthquake. But it turns out that they can slip and slide like weak faults causing earthquakes. Scientists have been looking at one of these faults...more