UMaine Student Finds Climate History in Antarctic Ice 

A Ph.D. student at the University of Maine has been spending the hot summer days working on some cool science. She’s melting an ice core from Antarctica, to help researchers understand more about the earth’s climate.It’s another cold day at the office for Ph.D. student Bess Koffman at the University of Maine.She’s been spending her days working to unravel the climate history of the earth, using an ice core she and others extracted from west Antarctica earlier this year.”About ten hours a day, all summer I’ve been melting this ice core. And today’s exciting because we might see evidence of an eruption,” Koffman says.In the lab, she uses a special process to melt the ice and determine its chemical make-up. On this day, she was looking for evidence of an ancient volcanic eruption, from the year 186 A.D. Specifically, she’s looking for dust.”It’s not something you can see with your eye in the ice, but we can measure it and see how it changes,” Koffman says. She says dust can be an important tool in understanding our earth’s climate over the past 100-thousand years.”Overall, dust is a cooling mechanism in the climate. It scatters solar radiation that comes in, so understanding where dust comes from, how much there was at different times in our history, and other questions…are all relevant to a better understanding of the earth’s climate,” she says.More than 20-different institutions, along with UMaine, are researching different parts of this same ice core. Koffman says the better they understand what happened in the past, the better researchers can see what changes might be in our future.”It’s a huge project through the National Science Foundation and it’s great to be a part of it,” she says, “even if I’m just doing my little piece of the puzzle.”