Much of our knowledge of past climate comes from ice cores drilled from the Greenland ice sheet. These records stretch back more than 100,000 years, but existing ice cores do not include clear records from the Eemian stage, the second-to-latest interglacial period, which occurred about 130,000 years ago. During this period, evidence indicates that temperatures were about 3-5 ˚C warmer than present, so more information would help us understand and predict how our climate is likely to evolve in the warming future.
Under the North Greenland Eemian (NEEM) ice drilling project, an international team of researchers worked to obtain complete and undisturbed layers of ice from the Eemian by drilling a new core in northwest Greenland. Choosing the right spot to drill was critically important to the project’s success. NEEM scientists collaborated with researchers from the Center for the Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets (CReSIS) at the University of Kansas. The CReSIS team provided Radar Echo Sounding profiles over the ice sheet, which provided information on ice layer thickness and variability over time and space and helped NEEM researchers select the drill site.
The NEEM team began deep drilling at the site in 2009, and CReSIS scientists were able to compare the detailed information collected from the core with their radar data in order to better understand variations in snow accumulation and other environmental parameters. This helped improve the accuracy of the Radar Echo Sounding profiles.
The NEEM drill site was on top of the Greenland ice sheet, where the ice is 2.5 km thick. The NEEM team spent much of the 2008 research season constructing a camp at the site. The majority of the ice core drilling took place during the summers of 2009-2011, during which the camp accommodated about 30 researchers and technicians for 3-4 months.
Cheri Hamilton is currently the K-12 Education Coordinator for the Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets (CReSIS). Funded by the National Science Foundation, this science and technology center is located in Lawrence, Kansas at Kansas University, and develops new technologies and computer models to measure and predict the response of sea level change to the mass balance of ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica. As part of her outreach, Ms. Hamilton developed a hands-on activity program called “Ice, Ice, Baby” which is taught in K-8 classrooms in the Topeka and Kansas City public schools. She presents at teacher workshops and conferences as well. Ms. Hamilton has a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from Kansas University. Since teaching elementary school, Ms. Hamilton has taught in many informal science programs including EarthWorks, Kansas Starbase, and the Challenger Learning Center.