The Alps : Antarctica soon to be a bank of ice cores

sep article

FOCUS – Are the glaciers threatened by climate change ? In order that these archives, which are true studies by climate science laboratories, do not disappear, researchers have a project to store samples in Antarctica. The first ice core bank is being planned, kicking-off in 2016, with the first drilling in the Mont Blanc massif.



Tente de forage au col du Dôme, à 4.250m d’altitude au sommet du massif du Mont Blanc. En 2016, des carottes de glace y seront prélevées pour être acheminées et conservées en Antarctique. Crédit Bruno Jourdain, LGGE/OSUG/UJF

A drilling tent has been set-up at the Dôme moun­tain pass, at an alti­tude of 4,250m, on the sum­mit of Mont Blanc. In 2016, ice cores will be col­lec­ted from there and trans­por­ted to Antarctica for sto­rage. © Bruno Jourdain, LGGE/OSUG/UJF


Are the gla­ciers threa­te­ned with extinc­tion ? Not yet, but the pro­ject is for resear­chers to freeze threa­te­ned ice samples, the­re­fore, crea­ting a “bank” of ice cores, (rela­ti­vely) pro­tec­ted from glo­bal war­ming


The first sample should be col­lec­ted at the begin­ning of 2016, from Mont-Blanc. The ice cores will then be trans­por­ted to Antarctica, from the French-Italian Concordia base, which gua­ran­tees a tem­pe­ra­ture of ‑53°C.


It’s the best free­zer in the world”, says Jérôme Chappellaz, direc­tor of research at the labo­ra­tory of gla­cio­logy and envi­ron­men­tal geo­phy­sics in Grenoble (LGGE). “The ice cores will be safe, even in the event of glo­bal conflict. There is no need for elec­tri­city ; they will remain cold, even if the tem­pe­ra­ture rises by 10°C on the Antarctic pla­teau, by the end of the cen­tury. The ice cores will not be in dan­ger at ‑43°C.”




Disappearing archive




Jérôme Chapellaz, directeur de recherche CNRS au laboratoire de glaciologie de Grenoble. Credit CNRS Photothèque / Cyril FRESILLON

Jérôme Chappellaz, direc­tor of research at the labo­ra­tory of gla­cio­logy and envi­ron­men­tal geo­phy­sics in Grenoble. © CNRS Photothèque – Cyril Fresillon

What is the objec­tive ? Build a wealth of infor­ma­tion to pass on to future gene­ra­tions, at the time of cli­mate change, bet­ween glo­bal war­ming and decrea­sed rain­fall, affec­ting the planet’s gla­ciers. In the space of ten years, the alpine gla­cier at the Dôme pass, at an alti­tude of 4,300 meters, on Mont Blanc, and the Bolivian gla­cier, Illimani, above La Paz, have war­med by 1.5 to 2°C. The gla­cier Taconnaz, over­loo­king the Chamonix val­ley, is coming dan­ge­rously close to mel­ting point.


We are the only com­mu­nity, wor­king on the cli­mates of the past, to see the archives disap­pear”, warns the French scien­tist. “It is time to do some­thing, imme­dia­tely, while the gla­ciers can still pro­vide exploi­table mate­rial.”


By drilling and dating the ice, resear­chers hope to unders­tand the present bet­ter, or even anti­ci­pate the future. This is the case in Nepal, where gla­cio­logy labo­ra­tory scien­tists from Grenoble are wor­king along­side local resear­chers, drilling a Himalayan gla­cier. The objec­tive : to unders­tand bet­ter the evo­lu­tion of Indian mon­soons and the regio­nal pol­lu­tion sources.




A UNESCO accredited project




In 2009, French scien­tists, in asso­cia­tion with their col­leagues from South America, laun­ched an inter­na­tio­nal appeal, with no great res­ponse. Today, led by Grenoble’s labo­ra­tory of gla­cio­logy, as well as the French Paul-Emile Victor Polar Institute, the Institute of research and deve­lop­ment (IRD), the CNRS, and with the sup­port of the Grenoble’s Joseph Fourier University Foundation, they want to do other­wise, by loo­king for spon­sors, in order to mount the first ope­ra­tions. They are relying on UNESCO’s accre­di­ta­tion of this ini­tia­tive to encou­rage inves­tors.


This “ini­tia­tive contri­butes to UNESCO’s man­date”, explai­ned Anil Mishra, hydro­logy spe­cia­list in the inter­na­tio­nal orga­ni­sa­tion, which, since the 1960s and 70s, has been cal­ling for a glo­bal inven­tory of per­en­nial ice and gla­ciers, all indi­ca­tors of cli­mate change.


We must help science to unders­tand the impact of cli­mate change on gla­ciers and water resources, in order to enable coun­tries to make the right deci­sions, be it in India, Central Asia or Europe.”


Patricia Cerinsek




Traduction from Speak English Center

Phone : +33 4 76 50 39 79

1 ave­nue du Vercors, 38600 Fontaine FRANCE



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