Michelle Koutnik stands next to an ice core drilling site in the South Pole
Michelle Koutnik, research associate professor in Earth and space sciences, surveys ice motion near the South Pole in 2016 as part of another effort. COLDEX will conduct ground surveys at unexplored locations in East Antarctica that are being targeted as deep ice-core drilling sites.

University of Washington glaciologists will join colleagues from around the country in a new effort to discover Antarctica’s oldest ice and learn more about the history of our planet’s climate.

The new Center for Oldest Ice Exploration, or COLDEX, will be created under a five-year, $25 million National Science Foundation grant announced on Sept. 9. Roughly $5 million of that grant will go to the UW.

UW researchers will lead in aspects of Antarctic fieldwork and modeling to identify the drilling location, deploy new technologies to scan the ice, and use new ways to analyze the ice once it is retrieved. The center will bring together experts from across the United States to generate knowledge about Earth’s climate system and share this knowledge to advance efforts to address climate change and its impacts.

“Establishing a center makes it possible to go after the big scientific goal of finding and analyzing the oldest ice remaining on Earth to address fundamental questions about the climate system,” said co-principal investigator Michelle Koutnik, a UW research associate professor of Earth and space sciences. “This is a tremendous opportunity that will bring together an ambitious research program with coordinated education, outreach and knowledge transfer programs as part of a new center that is founded on broadening participation in ice and climate science.”

One aspect of COLDEX will involve new development of a probe, the University of Washington Ice Diver, that melts through layers of ice and provides information about the age of the ice and other data without having to lift a core back up to the surface. The technology is being developed by COLDEX participant Dale Winebrenner, a UW research professor in Earth and Space Sciences and senior physicist at the UW Applied Physics Laboratory, in collaboration with Ryan Bay at the University of California, Berkeley.

Read more at UW News »