Scientists said this week that scientists have preserved samples of ancient Arctic ice for analysis in a race against time before it melts due to climate change.
The eight French, Italian and Norwegian researchers set up camp on the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard in March and April, braving storms and mishaps to preserve important ice records that can be used to analyze what Earth’s climate was like in the past and chart the devastating impact of human activity. Then now.
The Ice Memory Foundation team has extracted three huge tubes from the icy ice of Svalbard. They, like others collected through a 20-year project launched in 2015, will be preserved for future scientific analysis at a research station in Antarctica.
Analysis of the chemicals in such a deep “ice core” provides valuable data about centuries of past climatic and environmental conditions, long after the original glacier disappeared.
But it is a race to preserve this “ice memory”. Experts warn that as global temperatures rise, meltwater seeps into ancient ice and risks destroying the geochemical records it contains before scientists can gather data.
When the Ice Memory team set up camp in March on Holtedahlfonna, one of the highest and most extensive glaciers in the Arctic, the first hurdle was the weather.
Instead of the expected -25 °C (-13 °F), high winds pushed the temperature to -40 °C, delaying drilling by several days.
Then, once they had filled a 24.5-metre (80 ft) hole in the ice, water from the melted glacier rushed into it.
Although radar data collected since 2005 showed the presence of some meltwater within the Holtedalhfonna glacier, “we did not expect to find such an extensive, abundant and saturated aquifer at the chosen drilling site, at the end of winter,” Jean-Charles Gallet explained, Ice physicist at the Norwegian Polar Institute and expedition coordinator.
“Not only are glaciers losing massively mass, but also their cold content.”
Dramatic climate change
Aquifers are underground reservoirs of fresh or salt water that permeate and weaken ice crystals in glaciers.
“Seeing all that water in the glacier has given us the clearest evidence yet of the effects of dramatic climate change in the Arctic,” said team member Daniele Zanoni from Ca’ Foscari University in Venice.
Human-caused carbon emissions have warmed the planet by 1.15°C since industrialization, powered by fossil fuels, began in the 19th century. Studies show that the Arctic is warming two to four times faster than the global average.
The United Nations said Friday that the 40 “reference glaciers” – those for which there are long-term observations – are now thinner on average more than 26 meters compared to 1970.
The pressure of meltwater pouring into the Hultedalfona drill hole damaged two of the team’s rig engines, forcing them to move to the top of the Dovrebren glacier, 13 metres.
When drilling resumed, the researchers succeeded in extracting three ice cores 50-75 meters long. The layers and air bubbles trapped in these precious transparent cylinders, just 12 centimeters in diameter, can hold up to 300 years of climate history.
A race against time
The race is on for ice scientists, who “see their starting materials disappear forever from the surface of the planet,” Jerome Chapelaz, president of the Ice Memory Foundation, told AFP April 3.
“It is our responsibility as glaciologists for this generation to make sure that some part of it is preserved.”
When the researchers got three ice samples, the temperature in Svalbard rose to -3 degrees Celsius, turning part of the way to their base at Ny-Alesund research station into a treacherous torrent of water.
Two of the ice cores made it to base, but the third is still stuck at the drilling site, waiting for more cold weather to ship.
Meanwhile, Ice Memory has made an international appeal to other researchers.
“We need (them)…quickly to collect samples from endangered glaciers or to save…ice samples that have already been collected, to preserve this precious data at the Ice Memory Reserve in Antarctica,” said the paleoclimatologist and deputy ice memory deputy. “. Carlo Brabant chair.
“If we lose archives like this, we will lose the memory of human change to the climate,” emphasized Anne Catherine Ullmann, director of Memory of the Ice.
“We will also be missing out on important information for future scientists and decision-makers, who will have to make decisions for the welfare of society.”
© 2023 AFP
the quote: Scientists Save Ancient Arctic Ice in Race to Preserve Climate History (2023, April 22) Retrieved April 22, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-04-scientists-ancient-arctic-ice-climate. html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without written permission. The content is provided for informational purposes only.