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Beyond EPICA Oldest Ice Core: 1,5 Myr of greenhouse gas – climate feedbacks

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Beyond EPICA (Beyond EPICA Oldest Ice Core: 1,5 Myr of greenhouse gas – climate feedbacks)

Reporting period: 2019-06-01 to 2020-11-30

This project will recover the first ever ice core record reaching beyond 1 million years (1 Myr) ago, extending our knowledge on climate and greenhouse gas forcing to 1.5 Myr, past the change in climate dynamics known as the Mid-Pleistocene Transition, where glacial/interglacial cycles changed from a 40,000 to a 100,000 yr cyclicity. This is a longstanding aim of international ice core science, and is eagerly awaited by the entire palaeoclimate discipline and the wider climate community.
Recovering a 1.5 Myr record of climate and greenhouse gases (GHGs) from Antarctica will resolve long-standing questions about the causes of change in the dynamics of climate over this timeframe, elucidating the linkages between the ocean, atmosphere, ice sheets and carbon cycle. This will provide a completely new, palaeo-based view of planetary boundaries and will tighten the constraints on the response of the Earth system over various timescales to future greenhouse gas emissions. The results obtained will be of paramount importance for the implementation of future Assessment Reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and to the Climate Action objective (#13) of the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations that aims to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. Such an oldest ice record is also a key priority for the international ice core community, as articulated by its planning body IPICS (International Partnerships in Ice Core Sciences). It is also much anticipated by other palaeoclimate scientists, as was affirmed at the recent 2017 PAGES (PAst Global changES, Open Science meeting.
The overarching scientific goal driving BE-OIC is to obtain the first stratigraphically undisturbed, high-resolution ice-core record of climate and environmental changes over the last 1.5 Myr, and use it to elucidate the role of slow parts of the climate system (carbon cycle, ice sheets) in climate change. By obtaining for the first time ever a continuous ice core extending up to the last 1.5 Myr, we will cover the Mid Pleistocene Transition (MPT, from approximately 1.2 Myr to 0.9 Myr before present).
During the first 18 months of the project (1st June 2019 – 30th November 2020), Beyond EPICA Consortium mainly worked on the:

1. Definition of the exact drilling site, throughout a geophysical survey (work carried out by WP5). The resulting drilling site coordinates have been reported in D5.1 and this first main achievement was also disseminated to the general public through the press release issued on 20th December 2019.
2. Building of the LDC camp with all the logistics aspects (material, equipment and instruments acquired, prepared and transported to the Antarctic departure gateways). This work was carried out by WP2 team during the first field season 2019-2020, while the second field season 2020-2021 (cancelled due to COVID19 restrictions) ensured only the survey to the camp and instruments. Field reports, describing in detail the activity carried out during every field day, have been spread externally to the Project Consortium and archived in the Project Website at the link
3. Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the Beyond EPICA drilling activities described in D2.9. The obtainment of the approval of the EIA allows to achieve MS2.3.
4. Advancement in the drilling design and construction and delivered most of the material to Antarctica (work carried out by WP3 described in D3.1 the Report on the readiness and technical advancement of the drilling equipment).
5. Definition of the protocol for for proper ice processing, transportation and a cutting plan document (D4.1) in order to fully document and prepare the ice core for delivery to European laboratories or partial archiving in Antarctica (work carried out by WP4 together with all partners).
6. Improvement of the methods of extraction and analysis of ice cores. This work has been carried out by Science Consortia under WP4-WP3 and WP5 guidance (all Partners involved). Science Consortia produced a detail report on their work.
7. Integration of Beyond EPICA project into the wider international ice core community through the organization of International Partnerships in Ice Core Sciences (IPICS) workshop (work carried out by WP6 and described in detail in D6.1).
8. The Data Management Plan and the Dissemination and Communication Plan (work carried out by WP7 in D7.1 and D7.3).

All these activities have been coordinated and supervised by WP1 and carried out following the Ethical Requirements (WP8 Deliverables).

Since the start of the project (01/06/2019) 16 Deliverables have been submitted and the first Milestone has been reached (March 2020). Six formal project meetings (Scientific Steering Committee Meetings and Executive Committee Meetings) have been held regularly, as well as several frequent and periodic internal project meetings. All meetings have been conducted remotely, using online platforms.
Since this is the first periodic reporting, the progress from the beginning of the project is described in detail in the technical part (part B) and summarized above.

Expected results until the end of the project are:
1) Retrieve a continuous ice core to bedrock in Antarctica, covering the climate history of the Mid Pleistocene Transition and beyond;
2) Fully document and prepare the core for delivery to European laboratories or partial archiving in Antarctica;
3) Establish a first robust age scale for the Beyond EPICA core;
4) Derive first high-resolution climate records over the time interval older than 700 kyr;
5) Use the new climate records to constrain the cause of the MPT and long-term carbon cycle-climate feedbacks.

The expected impacts are:
1. Supporting major international scientific assessments such as the IPCC: Beyond EPICA will improve estimates of Earth System sensitivity to GHG changes and of climate and carbon cycle feedbacks.
2. Increasing confidence in climate change projections: Beyond EPICA will help to design solutions to mitigate future climate changes
3. Providing added-value to decision and policy makers: Beyond EPICA will provide an evidence base to support and validate model studies and thus providing information to policy makers
4. Sustaining Europe’s leadership in climate science: Beyond EPICA will strengthen the vision, increase the capacity and enlarge the expertise of the joint European science area
building the camp
field work team at Little Dome C camp
aerial view
aerial view of the Little Dome C camp
BELDC signpost