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Ice coring in Antarctica

Drill, Baby, Drill

Alison Criscitiello removes the inner barrel of drill containing an ice core from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Snow accumulates on the ice sheet in layers, so drilling deeper reveals older ice crystals. The MIT/WHOI Joint Program graduate student measure the concentration of a chemical compound in the ice called methanesulfuric acid, or MSA, in samples taken from the cores. MSA is created by phytoplankton that bloom offshore when sea ice melts, exposing the ocean to sunlight. More MSA in ice core layers equals more phytoplankton equals less sea ice. Criscitiello wants to reconstruct how sea ice coverage has changed over past hundreds of years. (Photo by Sarah Das, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)


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