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mosaic image of Antarctica

LIMA Challenge
Spring 2008 NASA Quest Challenge!

Proposal by Isabelle
Morrissey Home School

The Abernethy Flats

photo of site chosen by student

I want to study an ice core but ice cores are not geological features, because of that I want to study one of Antarctica’s flats, specifically  the Abernethy flats. I decided to study a flat because flats contain ice cores that are easily accessible and these ice cores give us the best snapshot of what Earth’s environment was like long ago.   Because of its proximity to water and its location just outside of the Arctic Circle (63°52S, 57°54W), I specifically selected the Abernethy Flats.

Ice cores can tell us much about Earth’s past.  First, ice cores show that in the past there have been major weather changes.  Because of this, we know from previously studied ice cores that the past 740,000 years have included eight ice ages.  Secondly, the air trapped inside an ice core can show what made up the atmosphere at the time the air was trapped.  Ice cores can show what the temperature was in the past, which can give us information about whether or not there has been global warming in the past. 

Additionally, an ice core from the right site can be used to reconstruct an uninterrupted and detailed climate record extending over hundreds of thousands of years.  Finally, ice cores can show us unusual weather patterns or other strange things.  For example, the presence of ash or radioactivity in an ice core can give us information about the Earth’s long-ago atmosphere.  Again, such information will help us study the history of global warming.

The location of the Abernethy flats is also important.  The Abernethy Flats is located near water, which means it will provide us with a wider range of weather.  The Abernathy Flats are ideal for study because they are located at the northern tip of Antarctica, outside the Arctic Circle, on the peninsula that juts out into the ocean, at the head of Brandy Bay.  Also, coastal areas tend to be windier than inland areas; so the Abernathy Flats may produce more atmospheric information from a wider geographic area.  Lastly, coastal areas have lots of animals like fish, birds, and insects that might get fossilized in the ice cores.  Obviously, such fossil finds could greatly increase our knowledge of life on Earth long ago.

            It is for these two primary reasons – location and the presence of more easily accessible ice cores – that I have chosen the Abernethy Flats as the best landform for study of the Earth’s long-ago environment.


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NASA Official: Liza Coe
Last Updated: May 2005
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