What do the Ice Core Bubbles Really Tell Us?

Watts Up With That?

Guest Opinion: Dr. Tim Ball

At a recent public presentation titled “Whither the Weather” the most frequently asked question popped up once gain. “How do they know the temperatures from thousands of years ago, as in the Antarctic ice record.” I gave the standard answer about layers of ice, extraction of air from trapped bubbles and then comparison of the Oxygen 16/18 isotope ratio, which varies with atmospheric temperature. As always, people are dazzled by that, and even though they don’t understand, it sounds plausible. The trouble is that every time I give the answer, it triggers my long-term concerns about the nature of glaciers, glacial ice, entrapment of the bubble, and recovery methods of the air in the bubble. I spent hours discussing all aspects of glaciers and ice cores with the late Dr. Fritz Koerner, one of the few people to study glaciers in the Arctic and…

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