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NOVA: Secrets Beneath The Ice

Airs Wednesday, December 28, 2011 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: A tent below the headwall of a glacier at Dave Marchant's field camp in Beacon Valley. Can Antarctica’s climate past offer clues to what may happen to our warming planet? To gather crucial evidence, NOVA follows an ambitious Antarctic investigation — a state-of-the-art drill­ing probe known as ANDRILL.

Almost three miles of ice buries most of Antarctica, cloaking a continent half again as large as the United States. But when an Antarctic ice shelf the size of Manhattan collapsed in less than a month in 2002, it shocked scientists and raised the alarming possibility that Antarctica may be headed for a meltdown.

Peter Webb, Adam Lewis and David Harwood dig volcanic ash specimens to date the age of freeze dried mosses and leaves that Lewis claims are 14 million years old.
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Above: Peter Webb, Adam Lewis and David Harwood dig volcanic ash specimens to date the age of freeze dried mosses and leaves that Lewis claims are 14 million years old.

Aerial of the ANDRILL drill rig on the sea ice of McMurdo Sound
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Above: Aerial of the ANDRILL drill rig on the sea ice of McMurdo Sound

Even a ten percent loss of Antarctica's ice would cause catastrophic flooding of coastal cities unlike any seen before in human history. What are the chances of a widespread melt?

"Secrets Beneath the Ice" explores whether Antarctica's climate past can offer clues to what may happen. NOVA follows a state-of-the-art expedition that is drilling three-quarters of a mile into the Antarctic seafloor.

The drill is recovering rock cores that reveal intimate details of climate and fauna from a time in the distant past when the Earth was just a few degrees warmer than it is today.

As researchers grapple with the harshest conditions on the planet, they discover astonishing new clues about Antarctica's past—clues that carry ominous implications for coastal cities around the globe.

NOVA is on Facebook, and you can follow @novapbs on Twitter.

Video

Preview: NOVA: Secrets Beneath The Ice

Above: Can Antarctica’s climate past offer clues to what may happen to our warming planet? To gather crucial evidence, NOVA follows an ambitious Antarctic investigation — a state-of-the-art drill¬ing probe known as ANDRILL. Drilling deep beneath the Antarctic ice, down through the sea and three-fourths of a mile into the seafloor, ANDRILL recovers rock cores that reveal intimate details of climate and fauna from a time in the distant past when the Earth was just a few degrees warmer than it is today.

Video

Fastest Glacier

Watch the full episode. See more NOVA scienceNOW.

Above: A glacier moving way too fast reveals how unpredictable the effects of global warming can be.

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