His team compiled an extensive record of Antarctic temperatures and CO2 data from existing data and five ice cores drilled in the Antarctic interior over the last 30 years.

Their results, published February 28 in show CO2 lagged temperature by less than 200 years, drastically decreasing the amount of uncertainty in previous estimates.

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They measured the concentration of an isotope, nitrogen 15, which is greater the deeper the snowpack is.

Once they were able to determine snowpack depth from the nitrogen 15 data, a simple model can determine the offset in depth between gas and ice and the amount of time the difference represents.

Current polar records show an intimate connection between atmospheric carbon dioxide and temperature in the natural world.

In essence, when one goes up, the other one follows.

There is, however, still a degree of uncertainty about which came first—a spike in temperature or CO2.

Until now, the most comprehensive records to date on a major change in Earth’s climate came from the EPICA Dome C ice core on the Antarctic Plateau.

Scientists use air trapped in the ice to determine the CO2 levels of past climates, whereas they use the ice itself to determine temperature.

But because air diffuses rapidly through the ice pack, those air bubbles are younger than the ice surrounding them.

The wide margin of error in the EPICA core data is due to the way air gets trapped in layers of ice.

Snowpack becomes progressively denser from the surface down to around 100 meters, where it forms solid ice.

For students, understanding the general architecture of the atom and the roles played by the main constituents of the atom in determining the properties of materials now becomes relevant.