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New Antarctic ice core reveals secrets of climate change

A new Antarctic ice core that's more than 10,000 feet long suggests that West Antarctica may have begun melting more than 2,000 years earlier than believed. The secret? Sea ice.

Image

Dr. Julie Palais (l.) and Anais Orsi examine ice inside a backlit snow pit at the WAIS Divide. The horizontal lines represent annual layers of snowfall. The two to three feet of snow that falls each year compacts over time into a narrow band of ice. See more pictures from the WAIS Divide Ice Core project here: http://bit.ly/13DseAk

Kendrick Taylor / West Antarctic Ice Sheet Divide Ice Core

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Most ice we see melts quickly, from ice cubes melting into a soda to icicles disappearing on a sunny winter day. But in Antarctica, ice can stick around for hundreds of thousands of years.

A newly revealed cylinder of ancient ice could change the way we think about climate change. A study published August 14 in the scientific journal Nature looked at 30,000 years of ice in more detail than has ever before been possible.

"We're trying to home in on how our climate changes, on the scale of years and decades rather than on the scale of thousands of years, which we've never been able to do in Antarctica before," says T.J. Fudge, the lead author on the paper. "I think that's going to tell us so much about how our climate system works, at the short time scales that are relevant to modern climate change."

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