Frozen in Time The Colle Gnifetti Historical Ice Core Project applies state-of-the-art analytical technology to explore the intricate interactions between humans and the environment – P. Mayewski et al.
The Analytical Scientist featured University of Maine researchers taking part in the joint Climate Change Institute-Harvard University Colle Gnifetti Historical Ice Core Project. One of its main goals, according to the story titled “Frozen in Time,” is to study the intricate relationship between humans and the climate by tracking past events through ice cores. Paul Mayewski, CCI director; Alexander More, research associate at Harvard’s Initiative for the Science of the Human Past (SoHP) and assistant research professor with the CCI; and Heather Clifford, a doctoral student at CCI, are mentioned in the piece. “Without getting these different disciplines together, you can’t make the sort of discoveries necessary to understand really complex systems. It’s really a two-way relationship,” Mayewski said. “We provide them [Harvard] with climate information and they correlate this with significant historical events — it’s extremely useful to be able to calibrate the ice core record with known historical events.” Clifford utilized new laser technology, that takes as many as 20,000 samples per meter in the ice core, to analyze Saharan dust storms. More found that lead pollution has been elevated for the past 2,000 years — excluding a four-year period starting in 1349 A.D. that corresponds with the onslaught of the Black Death in the 14th century when lead dropped to undetectable levels in Europe. “Levels this low suggest there is no ‘natural’ level of lead (at least not a measurable one), and that anything higher must be caused by human activity,” More said. “I think we forget, as humans, that the planet existed before us in a state of equilibrium. We’ve polluted that equilibrium for at least the last 2,000 years, so our environmental standards cannot be based on just pre-industrial levels, 200 to 300 years ago.” Mayewski says COVID-19 also will be indicated in ice cores. “We’ve already seen the short-term impact of worldwide lockdowns on environmental pollutants and I am in no doubt that this will be recorded in ice cores around the globe,” he said.