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Science & Technology

Scientists sample one million-year-old air

By T.K. Randall
May 12, 2015 · Comment icon 9 comments

Ancient air has been trapped in bubbles under the ice. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 2.0 Eli Duke
A snapshot of the past has been found in the form of a bubble frozen in the Antarctic ice.
The bubble, which is providing scientists with a unique glimpse in to what the Earth's climate was like over a million years ago, was discovered inside an ice core drilled from a region in Antarctica known as Allan Hills which is near the McMurdo research station.

Offering the oldest picture yet of our planet's past atmosphere, the sample contains gases such as carbon dioxide and methane that were trapped and preserved in falling snow long ago.

An analysis of the discovery has revealed a strong connection between carbon dioxide levels and glacial cycles over the last one million years. It also suggests that there were no major swings in greenhouse gas levels during an interglacial period around 800,000 years ago.
"Gas bubbles are the gold standard for reconstructing climate," said lead author John Higgins.

The data also indicated that carbon dioxide levels, which are around 400ppm today due to human activities, had never previously exceeded 300ppm at all during the entire last one million years.

Source: Live Science | Comments (9)

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Oops Monkey 8 years ago
From the article, "Higgins also said that levels of atmospheric methane were surprisingly low in the oldest ice, for reasons that are as yet unknown." That is to say, the dinosaurs weren't farting as much.
Comment icon #2 Posted by spud the mackem 8 years ago
I can't imagine anything that lived a million years ago, surviving in our today's polluted atmosphere.
Comment icon #3 Posted by ancient astronaut 8 years ago
At least it wasn't a million year old fart.
Comment icon #4 Posted by outlookej 8 years ago
Only thing worse than a paleofart would be that air you get when you open a bag of chips....
Comment icon #5 Posted by Infernal Gnu 8 years ago
As a kid I once stored an air sample in an empty peanut butter jar right before New Year's Day. I'd screw the lid on tightly after waving the jar around outside and put tape around the edges and label it as to the year it was taken. It was like I was preserving a bit of that year.
Comment icon #6 Posted by Atuke 8 years ago
I'd love to breath that air! I stayed on an island once off of Nova Scotia and breathed the best air of my life. My lungs felt as pure as a newborns. Then I returned to the lower 48....cough...cough... weez
Comment icon #7 Posted by theotherguy 8 years ago
1 million years ago, Victor Mature, Lon Chaney, Jr., and Carole Landis were running around in animal skins.
Comment icon #8 Posted by Doug1029 8 years ago
I can't imagine anything that lived a million years ago, surviving in our today's polluted atmosphere. Clone Pando, an aspen clone at Bear Mountain, Utah, is estimated at between 80,000 and one million years old. Possibly one million years old and still alive! Doug
Comment icon #9 Posted by Athena1979 8 years ago
Ah. Global Warming... Ah, global warming! Ah, global warming!

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