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It can be up to about 20 m thick, and though it has scientific value (for example, it may contain subglacial microbial populations), Cores are often drilled in areas such as Antarctica and central Greenland where the temperature is almost never warm enough to cause melting, but the summer sun can still alter the snow.
In polar areas, the sun is visible day and night during the local summer and invisible all winter.
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The bubbles disappear and the ice becomes more transparent.
The weight above makes deeper layers of ice thin and flow outwards.
Buried under the snow of following years, the coarse-grained hoar frost compresses into lighter layers than the winter snow.
As a result, alternating bands of lighter and darker ice can be seen in an ice core.
Ice cores are collected by cutting around a cylinder of ice in a way that enables it to be brought to the surface.
Early cores were often collected with hand augers and they are still used for short holes.
Soviet ice drilling projects in Antarctica include decades of work at Vostok Station, with the deepest core reaching 3769 m.
Numerous other deep cores in the Antarctic have been completed over the years, including the West Antarctic Ice Sheet project, and cores managed by the British Antarctic Survey and the International Trans-Antarctic Scientific Expedition.
In Greenland, a sequence of collaborative projects began in the 1970s with the Greenland Ice Sheet Project; there have been multiple follow-up projects, with the most recent, the East Greenland Ice-Core Project, expected to complete a deep core in east Greenland in 2020.