Saving the glacial heritage
Glaciers contain the chemical traces that tell the story of the climatic and environmental events that shaped the planet. However, global warming is causing glaciers to melt at an increasingly fast rate. The runoff water is leaking into the lower levels of the ground, distorting the data collected by glacier researchers. “We must act now, the sequence of geochemical information stored within the ice must be preserved,” says Jérôme Chappellaz, the co-founder of the Ice Memory project along with Carlo Barbante from Ca’Foscari University in Venice.
Drilling operations for the Ice Memory project started in France in 2016 on the Col du Dôme glacier in the Mont Blanc range and continued on Bolivia’s Illimani glacier in 2017. The second expedition, which took place at over 6,300 meters above sea level, constituted a human and logistical challenge. The scientists had to carry nearly 4.5 tons of equipment and over 3 tons of ice cores representing 18,000 years of history!
"As true mountaineers, the scientists had to work in very difficult conditions and take extra precautions to keep the ice cores free of contamination," says Susanne Adolphi, Project Sponsor at Air Liquide.
An international project funded by sponsors
Launched by a French–Italian team and sponsored by the Université Grenoble Alpes Foundation, Ice Memory is truly global in scope. In March 2017, the inaugural Ice Memory conference was attended by scientists from 12 countries and held in Paris under the patronage of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). The purpose was to establish a roadmap for this vast program.
Ice Memory is funded by scientific organizations and private sponsors. Donations from the Air Liquide Foundation primarily helped purchase the equipment and containers for the storage facility in Antarctica.
"The Ice Memory project could not exist without our sponsors,” said Anne-Catherine Ohlmann, Director of Fondation Université Grenoble Alpes and Project Coordinator, “because it doesn’t qualify for funding schemes in France or Europe. These programs require fast results from the research, but the Ice Memory project is designed to be much more long term."
All pictures on this page: © Sarah Del Ben - Wild Touch - Fondation UGA