Planet Earth has the ability to record events throughout history, being recorded in the trunks of trees or in the soil strata. Glaciers also record changes in prehistoric life and in ocean water. They are currently recording clues about the impact of the coronavirus that will reveal important information to future generations.
"These records will be encased in ice and thus preserved"Explains Lonnie Thompson, professor of earth sciences at Ohio State University and a senior scientist at the Ohio State Byrd Center for Polar and Climate Research."And that means that 100 or 200 years from now, that ice will show everything that is in the atmosphere now, and inform future generations about what is happening now.".
There are already signs that the current COVID-19 pandemic is affecting Earth's atmosphere: As anthropic activities declined due to confinement, levels of nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide were declining in China, much of it. the United States and Europe. This decrease in the levels of nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide will be evident in the levels of nitrate and sulfate in the ice cores that are recovered by future glaciologists.
COVID-19: Ice cores, timelines
For decades, Thomson has taken teams of scientists to some of the most remote areas in the world to drill into long columns of glacial ice, called cores. Snow and ice form each year on glaciers around the world. In the coldest parts of the planet, snow and ice do not melt: everything accumulates year after year, leaving an annual record for millennia.
And this frozen water not only traps microbes, bacteria, viruses, plants and even animals; it also preserves everything in the atmosphere at the time it is formed. That means the nuclei act like a kind of timeline.
From the Black Death to the Industrial Revolution
Ice cores show environmental changes, both natural and human-induced. They show the start of the Industrial Revolution in the late 1700s, and mark the time when humans began adding chemicals, such as sulfate and nitrate, to the atmosphere and adding lead to gasoline. Ice cores also document the passage of the Clean Air Act in 1970, after which atmospheric sulfate concentrations have decreased.
The cores also showed evidence of the Black Death, a pandemic in the mid-1300s that remains the deadliest in recorded human history.
In some glaciers, the ice that formed during the Plague years contains less lead than the ice that formed during previous years, probably because mining and smelting activities declined sharply during that time, as do some activities today. Industrialists have stopped.
It also shows natural disasters that affected humans, such as a great drought that lasted from around 1345 to 1390. As a result, lakes and other inland waters dried up and the chemical composition of the atmosphere changed: less humidity and more dust.
"The drought reduced the thickness of the tree rings, but it also appears in the ice cores in China and in the Quelccaya ice sheet in the Peruvian Andes as the thickness of the annual ice sheets diminishes"Thompson said.“And we see higher levels of mineral dust and chloride and fluoride, which originate from evaporation as the lakes dry up.“.
Even more interesting, ice cores gathered from different parts of the world show similar changes at the same time. For example, the Huascarán ice in Peru and the Tibetan plateau ice in the Himalayas, as well as the Kilimanjaro ice in Africa, all show evidence of a drought around 4,200 years ago, the same signature of changes in the dust, chemicals and isotope levels, half a world away.
History in the cores, and of humanity changing the environment, adjusting to those changes and dealing with difficulties, or causing problems and trying to solve them"May it remind us that we have dealt with issues like the COVID-19 pandemic before"Thompson says."I suspect there are some lessons here that would be useful today.".