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Seasonal differences in the snow properties create layers – just like rings in trees. Unfortunately, annual layers become harder to see deeper in the ice core.
Fortunately, ice cores preserve annual layers, making it simple to date the ice. Melt layers are formed when the surface snow melts, releasing water to percolate down through the snow pack. They form bubble-free ice layers, visible in the ice core. They allow us to go back in time and to sample accumulation, air temperature and air chemistry from another time. Slow ice flow at the centre of these ice sheets (near the ice divide) means that the stratigraphy of the snow and ice is preserved.