The 5.4 million-square-mile Antarctic Ice Sheet is the greatest mass of fresh water on earth. If it all were to melt, it would raise global sea levels some 220 feet. Searching for answers to how fast the ice might react to changes in climate, scientists are now studying how that ice reacted to past warm periods similar to today's. More than two dozen researchers aboard the drillship JOIDES Resolution left Punta Arenas, Chile, on March 20. They will obtain cores of sediment from a remote section of seafloor, where ancient icebergs are believed to have left clues. With information from these cores, the researchers hope to chart how the ice sheet waxed and waned in response to climate over the past 10 million years. The two-month cruise is Expedition 382: Iceberg Alley and Subantarctic Ice and Ocean Dynamics of the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP), a collaboration of scientists that coordinates large-scale ocean expeditions to study the earth's history as it is recorded in sediments beneath the ocean floor.
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