Future of ice core laboratory and its evidence in doubt

Global Business

The National Ice Core Laboratory’s samples contain evidence of climate change dating back hundreds of thousands of years and is the largest repository of ice cores in the world.

It’s a valuable window to the past but the lab also has a somewhat cloudy future.

CGTN’s Hendrik Sybrandy reports.

Future of ice core laboratory and its evidence in doubt

The National Ice Core Laboratory’s samples contain evidence of climate change dating back hundreds of thousands of years and is the largest repository of ice cores in the world. It’s a valuable window to the past but the lab also has a somewhat cloudy future. CGTN’s Hendrik Sybrandy reports.

Spring is in Colorado and as the sun slowly marches towards summer, one place in Denver remains frozen in winter all year round.

Richard Nunn and Geoff Hargreaves spend their days surrounded by ice, the bulk of it contained in these silver cylinders. The oldest ice core, dating back 420,000 years, is also the deepest, 3,600 meters.

“It’s the only source we can go to on the planet to get a physical sample of what the atmosphere was like 200,000 years ago or 400,000 years ago,” National Ice Core Lab Assistant Curator, Richard Nunn said

“We’re looking for climate information. We want to go back as far in time as we possibly can,” National Ice Core Lab Curator, Geoff Hargreaves said.

The room where the ice cores are stored is kept at a frosty negative 36 degrees Celsius. It’s kept that cold to ensure that atmospheric gases contained in the ice don’t migrate out and that the ice can withstand a sudden loss of refrigeration for a couple of days.

The U.S. wants to phase out the Freon being used to cool these rooms. That refrigerant contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.

That means overhauling a storage room that’s practically run out of room for any more ice cores. The project could cost $5 million.

The lab, which is operated by the U.S. Geological Survey, is paid for by the National Science Foundation. And these days, under a new U.S. Presidential administration, scientific funding is in doubt.