On the same day that a leaked draft of the next major Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report showed more evidence of human-led climate change, the Environment Minister of Australia, Tony Burke, announced that his country will be leading a major new effort to drill an unprecedented 2,000-year-old ice-core in Antarctica. The Aurora Basin North project, an international collaboration that includes scientists from Australia, Denmark, the U.S. and France, will drill a 1300-foot core deep within east Antarctica to find out more about how the earth’s climate has changed over the last 2,000 years.
The project is set to begin next December and will consist of 8 weeks of drilling into a very thick area of ice about 372 miles inland from Casey Station. The Aurora Basin is the ideal site for the research as it has sufficient snowfall — over 4 inches a year — and harbors some of the deepest ice in Antarctica, 1.9 miles deep. It will be the first ice-core to provide a record of year-to-year changes over the past 2,000 years on the continent. Burke said that this new depth of information will help us better understand how the earth’s climate has changed naturally in the past. This will give us an accurate record to compare our current climate change to so we can make more informed decisions on what to do about it.
The Aurora Basin North drill will hopefully lead to what is known as the “holy grail” in drilling. The project, which involves drilling, airborne surveys and computer modeling of the ice, “is expected [to] lead to actual drilling for a one million year-old core by various international consortia in the coming year,” says Burke.