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Climate Change Research: Secrets of Ice Cores with Cutting-Edge Laser Technology

by Tech Desk
1 minutes read
Climate Change Research: Secrets of Ice Cores with Cutting-Edge Laser Technology

According to a recent study published in the Journal of Glaciology, researchers from the RIKEN Nishina Center Astroglaciology Laboratory in Japan have developed a new laser-based sampling system to analyze ice cores extracted from glaciers. This innovative system, known as the laser fusion sampler (LMS), has a depth resolution of 3 mm, which is three times smaller than currently available methods. The improved resolution allows scientists to detect temperature variations that occurred over much smaller time periods in the past.

Ice cores are cylindrical samples taken from glaciers that provide valuable insights into past climate changes. By analyzing these cores and taking samples at regular intervals, researchers can reconstruct continuous temperature profiles and better understand climate change over long periods of time. However, traditional sampling methods have limitations. One method loses data from years with an accumulation of less than 1 cm, while the other method destroys part of the sample needed for water content analysis.

The LMS system overcomes these limitations by offering high depth accuracy without destroying critical isotopes found in water. It works by emitting a laser beam through an optical fiber with a special silver nozzle and rapidly pumping the liquid sample into stainless steel vials. To optimize this process, researchers experimented with three critical factors: laser power, insertion speed, and drawing speed. By finding the right balance, they were able to melt the ice quickly without overheating or destabilizing isotopes.

In a proof-of-concept experiment, the team used the LMS system to sample a segment of a Dome-Fuji shallow ice core taken from East Antarctica. They successfully took 51 discrete samples at regular 3mm intervals along the core segment and compared them to manually segmented samples. The stable isotopes of oxygen and hydrogen found in meltwater matched well between both methods, indicating that the laser melting process did not ruin the sample’s integrity.

This breakthrough has significant implications for climate research. With its ability to analyze stable water isotopes with a depth resolution of a few millimeters, the LMS system allows researchers to obtain continuous, long-term temperature profiles from deep ice cores collected in low accumulation sites. It also enables the study of transient events, such as sudden temperature changes recorded in the cores.

The researchers plan to use the LMS system, or an improved version thereof, to study climate change related to natural variations in solar activity. This technology opens up new possibilities for understanding past and present climate dynamics and provides valuable data for predicting future climate trends.

The meat, the development of the laser fusion sampler by Japanese researchers offers a promising solution for studying ice cores and reconstructing temperature profiles. Its high depth accuracy and ability to preserve critical isotopes make it a valuable tool for climate research. By providing detailed insights into past climate changes, this technology contributes to our understanding of climate change and its potential future impacts.

Note: This article is based on a press release from RIKEN Nishina Center Astroglaciology Laboratory via Mirage News. The original source can be found (here)(


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