Meat & Global Warming

About Global Warming

Vegetarian Benefits

Our Research

Join Us


Other Ways to Help

Fun Facts

Our Blog


About Us

Our History

Contact Us

Quotes & Comments



Scripps Institute of Oceanography, Ice Core Lab More Info

It was a bright sunny day in La Jolla when we visited the Scripps Institute of Oceanography. Although the weather was nice that day, we had no idea that we were about to stumble onto something dark, that could change people’s lives forever.  It’s called Global Warming.  Now don’t go all crazy on me, I know that a lot of people don’t think global warming is real.  But unfortunately, there is proof, and that’s what we learned at the Ice Core Lab at Scripps.  Okay, let me start by telling you that CO2, the gas composed of one carbon atom and two oxygen atoms, is not bad in and of itself.  In fact,  there is a common cycle that you probably know that includes CO2.  You know, the one where plants give off oxygen, people breath in oxygen and breath out CO2, and plants take in CO2?  So you see, CO2 is essential for people to live. 

Unfortunately, there can be too much of a good thing.  With all the cars and factories nowadays, CO2 emissions continue to peak, and too much CO2 equals a hotter climate because of the way the gas traps heat in our atmosphere.  Skeptical?  Please read on.

How do we get this information on the CO2 levels?  The answer lies in Arctic and Antarctic ice cores (long tubular sections of ice obtained by drilling holes in the surface of the polar lands).  These ice cores don’t sound like much, but they are the secret to our past, present, and future.  You see, these ice cores have millions of air bubbles trapped within themselves, and, get this, these bubbles can date back millions of years.  For all you know, there could be a caveman fart in an ice core.  These cores are very important because they show the amount of CO2 over millions of years, and from this, we can make a chart and see that CO2 levels are climbing steeply. 

Now you may wonder, why do you go to all the trouble to get a block of ice, when you can just measure the CO2 in the air.  Well there are two problems.  First, you may be able to measure the CO2 in the air today, but you can’t graph the rise of it over time.  Second, air readings aren’t always accurate, and can differ from place to place. 

So, how do you measure the CO2 in the ice cores?  Actually, it’s quite simple.  Once the scientists transport the ice core to the lab, they put it in a machine to melt.  When the ice melts, it releases the air in the air bubbles, and scientists are able to measure the CO2 in the prehistoric air contained in the ice core using a machine called a spectrometer.  The amount of CO2 is then recorded on a graph showing the CO2 level over time.   Graph a bunch of these cores and you can create an atmospheric CO2 timeline!  The hardest part is, the air bubbles in the ice core cannot mix with present day air, and there must be a very tight vacuum surrounding the ice core.  But with technology these days, this does not cause much of a problem.  I hope you learned about our trip to the ice core lab, and if you wish to do something to fight global warming, please visit our Join Us page on the site!

Written By Brannon