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Millenia-Old Arctic Ice Samples Melt Away As Freezer Fails At Alberta University

18 April 2017, 9:13 am EDT By Kalyan Kumar Tech Times
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In a setback to research on climate change, valued Arctic ice cores — dated back to the Ice Age and excavated from Arctic glaciers — have melted away in Alberta University.

The mishap followed a glitch in the freezer at Alberta University where extracted glacier ice cores carrying trapped gasses and particles of the ancient atmosphere of Earth were preserved.

It is learned that 13 percent of the archive had been exposed to high heat. Extracted from Canadian Arctic glaciers, a portion of the preserved cylinders underwent high heat radiation at the storage facility.

Carrying precious history and strategic clues on climate change, the cylinders were at the age of 20,000 to 80, 000 years and belonged to the Ice Age.

Loss Of Past Data On Arctic Life

The malfunctioning freezer has now reduced the ancient ice into puddles.

"For every ice-core facility on the planet, this is their No. 1 nightmare," noted glaciologist Martin Sharp, who added that even a partial loss of the ice core will be a loss of record on past climates and environments — the archive of the atmosphere's long history.

"The way in which the freezer failed meant that it started to pump heat into the freezer," noted Sharp and a rapid surge of temperature in the range of 40-degree Celsius must have transpired.

Sharp said steaming puddles were seen around the millennia-old ice at the damaged freezer. Thankfully none of the cores were completely destroyed.

Acquisition Of Cores And New Facility

A dozen ice cores from Alaskan Arctic were acquired by the University after drilling five locations in the Canadian Arctic. They were shifted to a $3 million facility of the University in early April.

Meanwhile, the damaged freezer has been activated and a probe has been ordered, according to Andrew Sharman, vice-president of facilities and operations.

There is the concern as ice cores represent more than 80,000 years of climate change record and belong to the last ice age. The collection comprised 12 ice cores from five locations as the world from the Canadian Arctic.

Climate Research Will Continue

Though complete destruction has been spared, there is the likelihood that melted water may contaminate others and make the analysis hard.

"But not all research we do involves analysis of entire cores," Sharp said and added that nearly 90 percent of the archive is still intact.

The Arctic ice cores were moved to the Alberta University in a chilled container at -30 C with GPS system updating every hour about the unit's location and temperature. They were moved into a walk-in freezer on March 24.

Canada's Barne's Ice Cap Melting Away

Meanwhile, Laurentide Ice Sheet, a signature of North America covering the bulk of Canada and aided icefall in Chicago, New York, and Toronto is declining fast.

The Barnes Ice Cap attained equilibrium 2,000 years ago. However, the equilibrium is slipping and human-led climate change is causing many changes. The ice sheet is showing signs of a near-death.

"This is the disappearance of a feature from the last glacial age, which would have probably survived without anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions," said Adrien Gilbert, a glaciologist at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada.

The Barnes Ice Cap showed a marked decline in the 1990s coinciding with the rise in carbon pollution by humans, with an apparent 1.8°F increase in global temperature.

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