As warm a summer as Alaska’s has experienced, there’s still plenty of ice and this year a team of researchers drilled some 700 feet – more than two football fields – deep into a glacier on Mount Hunter, seeking a glimpse at 1,000 years of climate history. And to collect some icy souvenirs.
Mount Hunter, elevation 14,573 feet, is the neighbor of Mount McKinley, North America’s highest peak. And that where researcher Erich Osterberg led a team from Dartmouth College, the University of Maine the University of New Hampshire this spring and early summer.
“We drilled two 700-foot, 4-inch-wide holes to bedrock through the glacier on Mount Hunter, the third-highest peak in the Alaska Range,” says Osterberg, an assistant professor in Dartmouth’s Department of Earth Sciences. An unusual lack of storms allowed the team to complete the ice-core drilling and an array of supporting field research quickly and efficiently. “Alaska’s exceptionally warm summer this year also drew attention to the shifting climate picture,” he adds.
With a $1.1 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Osterberg collaborated with professor Cameron Wake of the University of New Hampshire and professor Karl Kreutz and professor Sean Birkel of the University of Maine. Also participating were the National Park Service, the U.S. Ice Drilling Program Office, and students from several colleges.