Greenland ice cores offer glimpse of weather system history

December 16, 2004

COLUMBUS, Ohio - The recent analyses of eight ice cores drilled from the massive Greenland Ice Sheet may paint a map researchers can use to uncover the history of a massive weather machine controlling the climate around the North Atlantic basin.

The boundary between two major pressure systems - the Icelandic Low and the Azores High -- controls whether storms reaching Europe are strong or weak, and whether the seasons are wetter or dryer.

This phenomenon called the North Atlantic Oscillation, or NAO, was only fully recognized a few decades ago. But available meteorological records can only trace its behavior back into the mid-1800s. That period is too short for scientists to really determine if variations they've seen this century might be linked to some larger, global climate change.

What scientists need to address that question is a much longer record than is now available. Those eight cores may provide the key, said Ellen Mosley Thompson, a professor of geography at Ohio State University and researcher with the Byrd Polar Research Center. She reported her findings today at the meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.

Ohio State University

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