A continuous ice core record of climate to beyond a million years

Ice cores from Antarctica, Greenland and mountain glaciers have provided great insights into climate on timescales from seasonal to glacial and geographic scales from regional to global. The rich archive of environmental tracers recorded in the snow makes ice cores arguably the most powerful single recorder of past climate information. The oldest continuous ice core record extends to 800 thousand years and comes from Dome C in Antarctica. Drilling of this core was conducted by European EPICA consortium and was completed in 2004. This EPICA Dome C (EDC) core provides a remarkable view of the climate of this late Pleistocene epoch, with its clear glacial cycles and 100 thousand year rhythm, leading into the present Holocene epoch. This long record from the ice is tantalizingly close to reaching into the mid-Pleistocene, when glacial cycles reorganized from 41 thousand year pacing. Studies indicate that an ice core reaching to possibly 1.3-1.5 million years is feasible in Antarctica. Several nations are interested in pursuing this goal, and the Australian Antarctic Program has committed to this project in the first half of the next decade. This talk will outline the science behind the project, the international landscape and the status of national efforts.