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Scientists on hunt for climate-change clues explore rare tropical glacier

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The six-person expedition team includes Indonesian oceanographer Dwi Susanto of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO), who studies the Pacific Ocean and the El Nino system that brings either drought or rainfall to Indonesia. The ice-core data can complement other proxies of oceanic temperature oscillations such as seabed samples and tree rings.

Thompson says the team, which arrived last month in Indonesia and scaled the peak earlier this week, had drilled down 16 meters on the first day. Over the weekend they hoped to dig as deep as 40 meters, using extendable drill bits only 100 mm thick, and to wrap up their expedition by the end of the month. (Follow the team’s expedition on its blog.)

The extracted ice cores are laid flat in three customized freezers, to be airlifted out later by helicopters provided by Freeport McMoRan, the US-based company that operates the nearby Grasberg mine and is assisting the team. The expedition is also supported by Indonesia’s Meteorological, Climatological and Geophysical Agency. The expedition was delayed for a week when several pieces of equipment were left behind at customs in Jakarta, including essential drill bits.

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