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Sunday, August 29, 2010 Lee Hotz reports on the WAIS Divide ice core drilling project

Antarctica from the Warmth of Your Own Home

from Climate Central, August 27, 2010

As you head into one of your last full weekends of the summer, we thought we would leave you with some Antarctic eye-candy.  Recently posted on is a presentation made by Wall Street Journal science journalist Lee Hotz. The video is less than 10 minutes long but is brimming with stunning visuals of an exploration site from Antarctica known as WAIS Divide, where researchers are drilling Antarctic ice cores to learn more about the history of earth’s climate.

The comments stream at the bottom of the video indicates that viewers were none too pleased that Hotz didn’t present more data. The truth of the matter is that – in addition to the fact that Hotz isn’t a scientist with the project – the data just doesn’t exist yet. As he emphasizes at the 1:48 min. mark, “what we don’t know is the exact, precise, immediate impact of these changes on natural climate patterns.” The entire focus of the project, which is still ongoing, is to find answers to how the climate has changed in the past, when such changes took place, and maybe even answers into the all important question of why?

Yes, it is unusual to tell people that scientists are seeking out information, rather than waiting to tell them once the scientists have figured it all out. But here Hotz so clearly explains why we need to study ice core data and how scientists actually conduct such work that the presentation is still meaningful.

"The ice of Antarctica is a calendar of climate change. It records the annual rise and fall of greenhouse gases and temperatures going back before the onset of the last ice ages" -- Lee Hotz
The project Hotz talks about in Antarctica also reminds us of the NEEM Project in Greenland that we’ve previously reported on in both blog and video formats. Though they are on opposite ends of the planet, the two ice core projects are expected to yield equally rich climate history data in the years to come.

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