A forgotten ice core rewrites fossils in Greenland’s ice past


The secret military plan never happened – engineers quickly learned how quickly and unexpectedly the ice could move, making the site unsuitable for temporary and complete nuclear weapons. Kalgan, project director The camp’s century-long climate monitoring program, One of the handful of people who went to the site of the former army base, is now buried under more than 100 feet of frozen snow and ice. “The tunnels have collapsed and shrunk,” he says. “The snow has turned to ice with debris pancakes.”

Camp Century was abandoned in 196767, a year after engineers managed to achieve true scientific achievements: the first ice cores were drilled. Together with more recent cores in Antarctica and elsewhere in Greenland, these thin cylinders of ice provide an important record of ancient climatic conditions that researchers have since used to understand both our past and our future models. Camp Century was valuable to science, now much more than before, Colgan said.

“Camp Century was the first ice core program, and we’re still learning from it,” says Colegan, adding that Cold War-era teams probably understood the site’s inadequacy as a missile base early in their work, but it was fixed in the name of science. He said subdivision samples only exist because they will not give any answer. They got completely into Bedrock and continued on. ‘

Some ice cores of the mile-long Camp Century were previously studied. 19 After collection in 1966, about 12 feet of icy mud and bedrock from the bottom of the ice – this subglacial core specimen was stored in the Army Lab freezer, then at the University of Buffalo. The specimen was eventually sent to Denmark, where it was again frozen at the Ice Core Archive in Copenhagen.

In 2017, as staff prepared to upgrade facilities, someone noticed an unchanged box of original samples of the camp’s century. Inside, they found glass jugs of subglacial rock and frozen silt, rather than ordinary thin cylinders of ice core inside. Almost immediately, the search became exciting on the field. It would be prohibitively expensive to obtain a comparatively subglacial sample today using modern drilling technology.

“We knew how important these samples would be. We all started to tremble and start to slow down a bit, “Schaefer said. As the samples spread, he moved to Copenhagen with Vermont geologist Paul Biman in hopes of discussing some of the material.” We tried not to let them see how excited we were. I just tried to put it together. ”

Drill sediments at the bottom of the ice and sub-blazial elements hit from the bedrock have no ice data. Like everything on Earth’s surface, exposed rock bombs cosmic rays, creating chemical signatures, called cosmogenic nuclei, which can be used to establish when and when ice-free be “nuclei are produced only when the rock is seen in the open sky. “Schaefer said. Callgan says the dating work on this material is “really hard”, but the camp’s century-old specimen is initially dated confidently as more than a million years old with a previously studied specimen from Greece.

Christ, Schaefer, and their colleagues continue to analyze the material of the Camp Century to narrow the scope of its age and learn more about the plant material that preserves it, as large deposits of ice usually destroy organic matter. The next step in ongoing research involves searching for DNA markers that could be used to determine the species present and even to reconstruct the entire ecosystem. So far it looks similar to the modern Arctic tundra.

There is much more to the camp’s century roots to explore. Christ said the very bottom layers of the sample contained amounts of silt that could be up to 3 million years old, and contained more organic matter that could be “the oldest material found under ice.”

The Camp Century may never host nuclear weapons, but it is proving to be far more significant than its planners imagined.


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