Understanding Our Planet Through Chemistry
An exciting new application of the QMS instrument uses a high-energy laser fired through a modified microscope to open individual gas inclusions in ice. Ice from Greenland and Antarctica contain atmospheric gases that were captured in snow as it formed. The gases were retained as the snow turned into ice and formed bubbles. Analysis of these bubbles provides detailed information on the past composition of the atmosphere.
Sea-level changes, changes in solar activity, and, according to some astrophysicists, even the signals from distant supernovas, are also recorded in the ice. Compiling and studying this record helps us to evaluate current changes in the atmosphere and to predict future trends. Ice-core studies provide valuable information about the levels of human pollution, past climate patterns, sources of moisture, the altitude of the ice when it formed, frequency and magnitude of natural events, and biological activity at the ocean surface.