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Tree Rings, Ice Cores, and Varves

Scientists can determine absolute ages using tree rings, ice cores and varves.

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Icy Secrets
teacher Contributed

Icy Secrets

Why It Matters

What secrets does Antarctica know about Earth’s past?

What do you think that Antarctica knows? Scientists from all over the world travel to Antarctica to essentially interview the continent, collecting a wide range of data, with the hopes of answering some of their questions about Earth’s geologic history. Here is an example of one of those scientists working with the ANDRILL project: http://icestories.exploratorium.edu/dispatches/antarctic-projects/drilling-through-time/

How do scientists, like Christina, use the ice cores to learn the secrets that the Earth has hidden from the rest of us?

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  1. First, a closer look at the process of determining the age of the rock samples is necessary. For a visual: http://www.andrill.org/system/files/web/files/posters/english/front/poster3.pdf Here are ANDRILL scientists discussing how this is done (from #5 of http://www.andrill.org/iceberg/videos/2007/index.html )

    What evidence do the scientists use to determine the age of the ice core sections? Are there any weaknesses to this process?

  2. Now, a closer look at how this ties into learning about our climate history: (from #6 of http://www.andrill.org/iceberg/videos/2007/index.html )

    How are scientists using the ice cores to learn about the Earth’s climate history? How is it helping them to better understand the future of our climate?

  3. What would happen if the temperature rose one degree? What would happen if it dropped one degree? Use the following simulation (http://www.andrill.org/system/files/web/images/edu/iceshelfadvanceretreat.swf) to see! Pay attention to the core sample on the right hand side to see how it is recorded in the rock record.

Resources Cited

Exploratorium. http://icestories.exploratorium.edu/dispatches/antarctic-projects/drilling-through-time/

Andrill. http://www.andrill.org/iceberg/videos/2007/index.html

http://www.andrill.org/system/files/web/images/edu/iceshelfadvanceretreat.swf

http://www.andrill.org/system/files/web/files/posters/english/front/poster3.pdf

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