Dating antarctic ice cores
NSF-ICF is housed administratively within the USGS, Core Science Systems Mission Area, which is responsible for all operational aspects of the facility.The facility's most important responsibility is for the safe and secure storage and curation of ice cores that are collected primarily by NSF-sponsored projects.A frequent activity that is held at NSF-ICF is what is called a core processing line, or CPL, for short.When a new ice core arrives at NSF-ICF, researchers from around the country, including young scientists working on their doctorates, gather at NSF-ICF for the CPL.Very few analyses on the ice cores are actually carried-out at the NSF-ICF facility.Almost all of the measurements that are made on the ice cores are conducted back at the scientist's university or laboratory.Once the new ice has come to thermal equilibrium with its new surroundings, it is carefully unpacked, organized, racked and inspected.After racking, the tubes are checked into NSF-ICF's inventory system.
When a shipment of new ice arrives, the insulated boxes carrying the cores are quickly unloaded into the main archive freezer.
A second room for examination of ice cores, held at -24°C, is 12,000 cubic feet in size and is contiguous with the archive area.
There is also a Class-100 HEPA-filtered, cold clean room.
During the CPL, the scientists—along with NSF-ICF staff—measure, catalog, cut and ship pieces of the ice core to their respective universities and laboratories for analysis.
Depending on the complexity of the cut plan, cores can typically be run through a CPL at a rate of 30-35 meters per day.