Scientists have claimed to have found the world’s oldest ice sheet in eastern Antarctic region, which they believe may date back 1.5 million years.
According to the scientists, an ice core taken from the sheet could hold valuable information about the earth’s climate and greenhouse gases. Moreover, the discovery is also significant for future ice-core exploration. They say, the discovery will help in providing information on future climate change as well as the climatic conditions prevailed at that time.
The path breaking discovery has been made by scientists from 22 countries. They concluded the findings after five years of research.
Dr Tas van Ommen, from the Australian Antarctic Division, says airborne radars were used to shine light through the ice and reveal its thickness. “There are large areas of east Antarctica where we really didn’t know anything about the ice thickness or at least very little. There were big voids in the coverage,” he said.
The scientists used the information they had from existing ice cores, estimates of the heat coming up from the Earth, the geothermal heat. Also, the researchers’ team ran very detailed models of how the ice flows to look at how old the ice would be. The ice sheet is about three kilometres thick.
A deep drilling project in Antarctica could commence within three to five years to reach the 1.5 million-year-old sample that would allow scientists to analyze those levels. The drills will need to extract a 2.4 – 3.2 kilometer-long (1.5 – 2 mile) ice core from the region.
The research findings have been published in the journal Climate of the Past.