Large archive of Canadian ice cores melts


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A large archive of Canadian ice cores has been lost, melting when the freezer they were stored in failed.

The 2 April failure left “pools of water all over the floor and steam in the room,” UA glaciologist Martin Sharp told ScienceInsider. “It was like a changing room in a swimming pool.” The melted cores represented 12.8% of the collection, which held 1408 samples taken from across the Canadian Arctic. The cores hold air bubbles, dust grains, pollen, and other evidence that can provide crucial information about past climates and environments, and inform predictions about the future.

The storage facility is normally chilled to –37°C. But the equipment failure allowed temperatures to rise to 40°C, melting tens of thousands of years of history. Among the losses: some of the oldest ice cores from Mount Logan, a 5595-meter-high mountain in northern Canada. “We only lost 15 meters [of core], but because it was from the bottom of the core, that’s 16,000 years out of the 17,700 years that was originally represented,” Sharp says.

Scientists also lost 66 meters of core from Baffin Island’s Penny Ice Cap, which accounts for 22,000 years—a quarter of the record. That leaves “a gap for the oldest part, which is really the last glaciation before the warming that brought us into the present interglacial,” Sharp says.

Considering the cost and difficulty of drilling these cores, and then safely bringing them to the facility without melting, it seems to me astonishing that the facility did not have back-up freezer capability.

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4 comments

  • PeterF

    I wonder how loss of some of the oldest ice samples that could show trends in ancient climates will effect the modern climate “studies”?
    If the temperature went from -37 C to +40 C that wasn’t a refrigeration failure. A loss of cooling in a poorly insulated freezer should take several days (or weeks) for the temperature to reach 0 C. What no alarms like every supermarket has in its meat cooler?
    Someone shut off the chiller and turned the heat up all the way. I wonder what they were trying to hide?
    Any “researchers” running around that used to work at a university in East Anglia?

  • LocalFluff

    Of course global warming will be blamed for these cores melting.

  • wodun

    The cores need not have melted all of the way to make them useless. The description does sound kind of fishy though.

  • Steve Earle

    PeterF said:
    “….If the temperature went from -37 C to +40 C that wasn’t a refrigeration failure. A loss of cooling in a poorly insulated freezer should take several days (or weeks) for the temperature to reach 0 C. What no alarms like every supermarket has in its meat cooler?
    Someone shut off the chiller and turned the heat up all the way. I wonder what they were trying to hide?…”

    I agree, that sounds very fishy. And given the past actions of the Warminista’s I would not be surprised to find that this was deliberate…..

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