How can scientists find samples of ancient atmosphere in ice?



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    Paleoclimatologists drill down into ice sheets and retrieve core samples.

    “The ice cores can provide an annual record of temperature, precipitation, atmospheric composition, volcanic activity, and wind patterns. In a general sense, the thickness of each annual layer tells how much snow accumulated at that location during the year. Differences in cores taken from the same area can reveal local wind patterns by showing where the snow drifted. More importantly, the make-up of the snow itself can tell scientists about past temperatures. As with marine fossils, the ratio of oxygen isotopes in the snow reveals temperature, though in this case, the ratio tells how cold the air was at the time the snow fell. In snow, colder temperatures result in higher concentrations of light oxygen.”

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