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Analysis of Greenland ice cores adds to historical record and provide glimpse into climate's future

A new study that provides surprising details on changes in Earth's climate from more than 100,000 years ago indicates that the last interglacial--the period between "ice ages"--was warmer than previously thought and may be a good analog for future climate, as greenhouse gases increase in the atmosphere and global temperatures rise.

The research findings also indicate that melting of the massive West Antarctic ice sheet may have contributed more to sea-level rise at that time than melting of the Greenland ice sheet.

The new results from the North Greenland Eemian Ice Drilling (NEEM) project were published in the Jan. 24 edition of Nature.

Members of the research team noted that they were working in Greenland during the summer of 2012 during a rare modern melt event similar to those discussed in the paper.

"We were quite shocked by the warm surface temperatures observed at the NEEM ice camp in July 2012," said Dorthe Dahl-Jensen, of the University of Copenhagen, the NEEM project leader.

"It was simply raining, and, just as during the Eemian period, meltwater formed subsurface ice layers. While this was an extreme event, the present warming over Greenland makes surface melt more likely, and the predicted warming over Greenland in the next 50-100 years will potentially have Eemian-like climate conditions."

The Eemian interglacial period began about 130,000 years ago and ended about 115,000 years ago.

The project logistics for NEEM are managed by Denmark's Centre for Ice and Climate. The Arctic Sciences Section in the National Science Foundation's Division of Polar Programs manages the U.S. support for the project.

In addition to Denmark and the United States, researchers from Belgium, Canada, China, France, Germany, Iceland, Japan, the Netherlands, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom are also partners in NEEM.

The research published this week shows th

Contact: Peter West
National Science Foundation

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Analysis of Greenland ice cores adds to historical record and provide glimpse into climate's future
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