Climate researcher tackles New Guinea glaciers

He likens the Puncak Jaya glaciers to a "dipstick" rising high into the atmosphere.

"There is no other such record in the wider region, which really stretches from the eastern Pacific to the Himalayas," he said. "It's the only record of its kind in what is nearly half of the tropical zone."

Puncak Jaya's scientific challenge may be greater than the logistical one. Because of the melting, the veteran Allison observed, "it's not going to be an easy core to interpret."

Thompson recognizes that, but puts first things first.

"It's important to get an archive for the future because 20 years from now our technology will be so much more advanced, and our ability to read these records will be much improved," he said.

He recalled that New Guinea's surprising glaciers first attracted him as a student long ago, when he found them in a Southern Hemisphere ice atlas. Now, "it's clear from Andrew Klein's work that these glaciers are going to disappear."

Getting there soon is key, Thompson said. "Whatever history is still there, we'll try to get it."

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