Oregon Scientists Use Krypton to Study Antarctic Ice, Clues in Ice Age Questions
(Corvallis, Oregon) – A team of scientists – many from Oregon and with connections to the Oregon coast – have made a discovery that uses radiometric krypton to successfully date ice from the Antarctic which will then allow more insight into the various ice ages of the Earth.
No, this isn't the substance that harms Superman, but rather krypton is a noble gas that does not interact chemically and is much more stable with a half-life of around 230,000 years. This makes estimating the age of ancient ice more efficient.
Christo Buizert, a postdoctoral researcher at Oregon State University, is the lead author of the paper, and he is also part of OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences. He, along with OSU geologist Edward Brook and others, identified the age of 120,000-year-old Antarctic ice using radiometric krypton dating – a new technique that may allow them to locate and date ice that is more than a million years old.
The ability to discover ancient ice is critical, the researchers say, because it will allow them to reconstruct the climate much farther back into Earth’s history and potentially understand the mechanisms that have triggered the planet to shift into and out of ice ages.
Next, the group is looking to locate some of the oldest ice in Antarctica, while this new technique could start answering questions about the frequency of ice age periods in Earth's history.
The Earth is thought to have shifted in and out of ice ages every 100,000 years or so during the past 800,000 years, but there is evidence that such a shift took place every 40,000 years prior to the Middle Pleistocene.
Finding and identifying extremely ancient ice could also assist in finding meteorites from Mars.
In addition to Buizert and Brook, the research team included Daniel Baggenstos and Jeffrey Severinghaus of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography; Zheng-Tian Lu, Wei Jiang and Peter Müller, Argonne National Laboratory; Roland Purtschert, University of Bern; Vasilii Petrenko, University of Rochester; Tanner Kuhl, University of Wisconsin; James Lee, Oregon State University.
OSU's ocean studies are often done through or at Newport's Hatfield Marine Science Center on the central Oregon coast.
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