Missing radioactivity in ice cores bodes ill for part of Asia

When Ohio State glaciologists failed to find the expected radioactive signals in the latest core they drilled from a Himalayan ice field, they knew it meant trouble for their research.

But those missing markers of radiation, remnants from atomic bomb tests a half-century ago, foretell much greater threat to the half-billion or more people living downstream of that vast mountain range.

It may mean that future water supplies could fall far short of what’s needed to keep that population alive…

The absence of radioactive signals in the top portion of these cores is a critical problem for determining the age of the ice in the cores. The signals, remnants of the 1962-63 Soviet Arctic nuclear blasts and the 1952-58 nuclear tests in the South Pacific, provide well-dated benchmarks to calibrate the core time scales.

“We rely on these time markers to date the upper part of the ice cores and without them, extracting the climate history they preserve becomes more challenging,” Thompson said.

“We were able to get a date of approximately 1944 A.D.,” Kehrwald said, “and that, coupled with the other missing signals, means that no new ice has accumulated on the surface of the glacier since 1944,” nearly a decade before the atomic tests…

“When you think about the millions of people over there who depend on the water locked in that ice, if they don’t have it available in the future, that will be a serious problem,” he said.

Does this sink in? Does this mean anything to you?

Or are you one of those smirking armchair climatologists who doesn’t understand the difference between weather and climate but “knows” none of this was human-caused and, therefore, why worry about the poor buggers downstream?

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