So, a short summary about Milankovitch cycles...... basically the changes in Procession, Obliquity and Eccentricity alter the intensity and distribution of solar radiation hitting the Earth which then affects the climate, with particular reference to the extent of glaciation. Milankovitch used these variations to develop a mathematical model which linked insolation to the corresponding surface temperatures and from this model he came to the conclusion that variations in insolation at high latitudes were responsible for the increase and decrease in the size of the ice caps at the poles. One crucial thing that I have yet to mention is the importance of landmass when talking about the Milankovitch cycles as it helps to explain why fluctuations in Precession, Obliquity and Eccentricity are harder to locate in older records. The Northern Hemisphere is known as a Milankovitch sensitive region and, as mentioned above, the effects of alterations in the three cycles decreases as you get closer to the equator and lower latitudes - which don't lie in Milankovitch sensitive latitudes. Therefore, when Pangea existed, which was centred around the equator, the cycles did not have such a prominent effect............. and so the question is, what did?
The EPICA have been joined in the race by an Australian Antarctic Division, an American contigent and a research team from the Chinese Arctic and Antarctic Administration. The Chinese have already secured a location in east Antarctica but have been set back by the discovery that the ice sheets in this chosen location are growing from the bottom up which means that the ancient ice has most likely melted or been replaced already. The Australians are close to securing a site in the Aurora basin, also in east Antarctica, which is believed to be home to the thickest ice in Antarctica, however research needs to be done to ensure that they too don't experience the same set back as the Chinese. Despite this, climatologists remain optmistic that a million year old ice core will be found eventually as it is one of those things that is going to take time. Current drilling methods, which are very similar to those used in the oil industry, mean that to reach this million year old ice core, which is hoped to lie at around 3000 metres deep, will take three summer seasons due to the remote locations of potential sites, but advances in technology mean that this process could be sped up.
This race for the million year old ice core is clearly no where near finishing and, despite the competition that exists between the four teams, the international collaboration that exists will hopefully allow for this increasingly important clue, that will be provided by this crucial ice core, to be uncovered and consequently provide information as to why the climate we presently experience exists and perhaps even how and why, due to physical influences, it could change in the future.