2022-2023 Science Planning Summary
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2022-2023 USAP Field Season
Project Detail

Project Title

Snapshots of early and mid-Pleistocene climate and atmospheric composition from the Allan Hills blue ice area

Drill Tent on Allan Hills. Photo by Todd Anderson. Image courtesy of NSF/USAP Photo Library. Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
I-165-M Research Location(s): Allan Hills


Event Number:

Program Director:
Dr. Paul Cutler

ASC POC/Implementer:
Judy Shiple / Jenny Cunningham

Principal Investigator(s)

Dr. John A Higgins
Princeton University
Department of Geosciences


Supporting Stations: McMurdo Station
Research Locations: Allan Hills


Bubbles of ancient air trapped in ice cores have been used to directly reconstruct atmospheric composition, and its links to Antarctic and global climate, over the last 800,000 years. Previous field expeditions to the Allan Hills Blue Ice Area have recovered ice cores that extend as far back as 2.7 million years. This project will return to the Allan Hills Blue Ice Area to recover additional ice cores that date to 2 million years or older. The climate records developed from these ice cores will provide new insights into the chemical composition of the atmosphere and Antarctic climate during times of comparable or even greater warmth than the present day. Project results will help answer questions about issues associated with anthropogenic change including the relationship between temperature change and the mass balance of Antarctic ice and the relationship between atmospheric greenhouse gases and global climate change.

Field Season Overview

Eight participants, including two U.S. Ice Drilling Program (IDP) drillers, will establish a camp at the Allan Hills Blue Ice Area. Over seven to eight weeks, they will use two drill rigs, the large-bore Blue Ice Drill (BID), and a smaller (four-inch) drill, both provided by the IDP. Two drill teams will work in different areas to drill several cores between 100 and 160 meters deep. Recovered ice cores will be packed in ice core boxes, then removed weekly by Twin Otter or other fixed wing aircraft. The group will recover up to 16,000 pounds of ice, filling up to 94 ice core boxes. Retrograded ice cores will be placed in the Ice Core Transit Facility at McMurdo Station, then shipped off continent via vessel for eventual storage and processing at the NSF-Ice Core Facility.

Deploying Team Members

  • Austin Carter
  • Jonathan Hayden
  • Michael Jayred
  • Jacob Morgan
  • Elizabeth Morton
  • Peter Neff
  • Julia Peterson
  • Yuzhen Yan