State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

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Finished, as the Glaciers Fall Apart

We have finished our mission at Puncak Jaya and removed the ice cores, along with all camps and people from the field. Currently, we are in the coastal city of Timika for a few days, drying out our field equipment and tents. These are the first glaciers we have ever drilled where it rains almost every day–and as a consequence, the glaciers are falling apart.

Credit: David Christenson/Freeport McMoRan
Credit: David Christenson/Freeport McMoRan

I think we have been just in time to salvage a bit of the climate history before these glaciers disappear. After two weeks of camping on the ice, the tents we installed were on raised ice platforms about 30 centimeters above the surrounding surface. This speaks volumes as to just how rapidly these glaciers are shrinking.  If that two-week period is representative of the annual process, we are talking about meters of ice being removed from the surface of these ice fields each year.

Next challenge will be getting the ice cores and equipment through Indonesian customs. If the journey in is any indication, this could take weeks.  The cores are now being stored in a freezer in downtown Jakarta.

Banner featuring a collage of extreme heat images.

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