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What a mile-deep soil sample can teach us about climate change


The soil sample was forgotten for decades, but threw up some surprises once it was examined. A frozen soil sample from 1963 could help us understand the effects of a changing climate on our planet.

The sample was taken from a mile below Greenland’s glaciers.

New techniques showed that the ice sheet had melted to the ground within the last 50,000 years.

In 1963, inside a covert U.S. military base in northern Greenland, a team of scientists began drilling down through the Greenland ice sheet. Piece by piece, they extracted an ice core 4 inches across and nearly a mile long. At the very end, they pulled up something else – 12 feet of frozen soil.

The ice told a story of Earth’s climate history. The frozen soil was examined, set aside and then forgotten.

Half a century later, scientists rediscovered that soil in a Danish freezer. It is now revealing its secrets.Using lab techniques unimaginable in the 1960s when the core was drilled, we and an international team of fellow scientists were able to show that Greenland’s massive ice sheet had melted to the ground there within the past million years. Radiocarbon dating shows that it would have happened more […]

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