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U.S. National Ice Core Laboratory

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Operation and Maintenance of the U.S. National Ice Core Laboratory  (Geological Survey-Denver)

Science, Operations, and Maintenance Support for the United States Antarctic Program  (Raytheon Technical Services Company LLC)

Research Focus & Anticipated Benefits

The U.S. National Ice Core Laboratory (NICL) is a facility funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) for storing, curating, and studying ice cores recovered from the polar regions of the world. It provides scientists with the capability to conduct examinations and measurements on ice cores, and it preserves the integrity of these ice cores in a long-term repository for current and future investigations.

Ice cores contain an abundance of climate information - more so than any other natural recorder of climate such as tree rings or sediment layers. Although their record is short (in geologic terms), it can be highly detailed. An ice core from the right site can contain an uninterrupted, detailed climate record extending back hundreds of thousands of years. This record can include temperature, precipitation, chemistry and gas composition of the lower atmosphere, volcanic eruptions, solar variability, sea-surface productivity and a variety of other climate indicators. It is the simultaneity of these properties recorded in the ice that makes ice cores such a powerful tool in paleoclimate research.

Education & Outreach

The broader impacts of the activities carried out at NICL are accomplished through outreach activities that encompass a broad segment of student populations from grade school through graduate-level, museum groups, professional groups, international scientists, visiting members of Congress and Congressional staffers, visiting Cabinet-level dignitaries, groups from other federal agencies, and local, national, and international news and science feature producers. In all instances, NICL strives to educate the public on the significance of climate change research and the role of ice core research within the broader context of global change while providing students with the opportunity to utilize the facilities and train on instrumentation at the lab for current and future research activities.

NSF Award:  0637211 

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  • person holding ice core
Section of West Antarctic Ice Sheet Divide Ice Core
Geoffrey Hargreaves, National Science Foundation