Ice cores and SoCal beaches

Last week I spent a few days in La Jolla, CA near San Diego. I had never been to San Diego before July and now I’ve been twice in only a few months!


I was there for another conference, but this time all about an ice core in West Antarctica that was completed last year. The meeting was the first to talk about science related to the ice core data they collected.

I went with another grad student from UT and a former student who lives in San Diego now offered to pick us up from the airport. We took a meandering few hours to get to the hotel and in the meantime saw some of the good local sights, including a yard full of sculpted bushes.


After driving through some cute neighborhoods, we stopped by Balboa Park. Back in July, I hadn’t had time to check out Balboa, other than the San Diego zoo. First we walked past some of the beautiful buildings that were constructed for the Panama-California Exposition in 1915. Today they’re shops and museums, but the architecture is still stunning.


Then we headed over to the Balboa Park cactus garden. I had never seen so many different varieties of cacti in my life.


The garden was sizable and well-maintained. Some of the cacti were enormous, so I’m guessing the garden has been there for some time. Our friend told us it’s one of the best places to watch the sunrise.


After the cactus garden, we wandered over to the rose garden. The roses smelled amazing and there were tons of colors.


After we got our fill of the roses, it was time for fish tacos (delicious!) and then off to the Scripps Oceanographic Institute for the conference. Our hotel and conference site were oceanfront, so we opted to take the beach route to get to the conference every morning. What a hard life I live.


The conference was very productive and I met a lot of new people there. The West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) Divide ice core was drilled in one of the thickest parts of the WAIS. Ice at the bottom of the core is about 68 thousand years old, so it can tell us quite a bit about the climate far back in time as well as what the ice sheet looked like then. This is done largely through chemical dating of isotopes in the ice.

I’m hoping to use some of the analysis done at WAIS Divide to help me figure out what’s going on in other parts of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, where the data isn’t so good.


8 thoughts on “Ice cores and SoCal beaches

  1. Gail: Great city! Have not been there in years but always enjoyed it. Just read that Arctic ice cap increased 30% since last year. What is going on? Is that true?


    • Hi Tom, where did you see the bit about the ice cap? Not sure if that information is totally correct. There has been some ice growth in Antarctica, but not in the Arctic. There are fluctuations in sea ice, which you might have seen something about. The sea ice is seasonal and the minimum and maximum extent vary from year to year. The sea ice affects other aspects of the climate system (by changing things like the overall albedo of the earth), but it’s important to note that sea ice doesn’t affect sea level, since the ice is already floating.


  2. What you are doing in your conferences and in your research in Antarctica and the Arctic is like a giant puzzle and you keep getting more and more pieces to put together. It must be really fascinating for you! I’ve never been to San Diego but, clearly, I’ll have to put it on my list.


    • A lot of science is a puzzle, with lots of people contributing small pieces that may be put together later. Except sometimes the pieces aren’t quite the right shape to begin with, so you may have to mold them a bit first. It can be a challenge, for sure. I’m learning to love San Diego and you can’t beat the weather.


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