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



commentez lire les commentaires
3021 visites | 0 réaction
logos commentaires logos commentaires

Commentez ou réagissez

Votre adresse de messagerie ne sera pas publiée. Les champs obligatoires sont indiqués avec *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Ce site utilise Akismet pour réduire les indésirables. En savoir plus sur comment les données de vos commentaires sont utilisées.

Votre commentaire sera publié dans les plus brefs délais, après modération.