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How do scientists use ice to study ancient climates?

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Ice core sampling is a frequently used method to study the atmospheric conditions of ancient Earth. This is done because ice stores elements and compounds that are prevalent in the atmosphere. If you were to take a sample of ice made naturally today, you would find elements in a similar ratio to what we find in our current atmosphere (a certain percentage of carbon dioxide, nitrogen, oxygen, and so on).

This holds up for ancient atmospheres as well. The ice from that time period holds traces of the atmosphere from that time period. It is also stratified sequentially, so you can approximate how long ago that ice froze and make accurate readings of the atmosphere throughout history. Typically, carbon dioxide is of highest interest to scientists, especially for studying past climate conditions.

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