Scientists save historic Arctic ice in race to protect local weather historical past

A common view of snowcapped mountains and the arctic ocean on the coast of Svalbard close to Longyearbyen, Norway, April 5, 2023.
| Photograph Credit score: Reuters

Scientists have succeeded in saving samples of historic Arctic ice for evaluation in a race in opposition to time earlier than it melts away resulting from local weather change, they mentioned this week.

The eight French, Italian and Norwegian researchers camped in Norway’s Svalbard archipelago in March and April, braving storms and mishaps to protect essential ice data that can be utilized to analyse what the Earth’s local weather regarded like up to now and chart the devastating affect human exercise is having on it now.

The Ice Reminiscence Basis group extracted three large tubes of glacier ice on Svalbard. They, like others collected by the 20-year venture launched in 2015, will probably be preserved for future scientific evaluation at a analysis station in Antarctica.

Analysing chemical compounds in such deep “ice cores” offers beneficial information about centuries of previous climatic and environmental situations, lengthy after the unique glacier has disappeared.

However it’s a race to protect this “ice memory”. Consultants warn that as international temperatures rise, meltwater is leaking into historic ice and dangers destroying the geochemical data it accommodates earlier than scientists can gather the info.

When the Ice Reminiscence group arrange camp in March on Holtedahlfonna, one of many highest and most northerly glaciers within the Arctic, the primary hitch was the climate.

As an alternative of the anticipated -25 levels Celsius, fierce winds pressured the temperature right down to -40C, delaying drilling for a number of days.

Then, as soon as that they had bored a 24.5-metre (80-foot) gap within the ice, water from the melting glacier rushed into it.

Regardless that radar information collected since 2005 confirmed there was some meltwater contained in the Holtedalhfonna glacier, “we did not expect to find such an extended, abundant and saturated aquifer in the selected drilling site, at the end of winter”, defined Jean-Charles Gallet, snow physicist on the Norwegian Polar Institute and expedition coordinator.

“Glaciers are not only dramatically losing their mass but also their cold content.”

‘Dramatic climate change’

Aquifers are underground reservoirs of freshwater or saltwater that permeate the ice crystals in glaciers and weaken them.

“Seeing all that water in the glacier gave us the clearest evidence yet of the effects that dramatic climate change is having in the Arctic,” mentioned Daniele Zannoni, a member of the group from the Ca’ Foscari College in Venice.

Human-caused carbon emissions have warmed the planet by 1.15 levels Celsius since industrialisation, powered by fossil fuels, started the nineteenth century. Research point out that the Arctic is warming between two and 4 occasions quicker than the worldwide common.

On Friday, the United Nations mentioned the world’s 40-odd “reference glaciers” — these for which long-term observations exist — are greater than 26 metres thinner now on common than in 1970.

The stress of the soften water speeding into the Holtedalhfonna drill gap broken two of the group’s driller motors, forcing them to relocate to the summit of the Dovrebreen glacier, 13 metres greater up.

When drilling resumed, the researchers succeeded in extracting three ice cores 50-75 metres lengthy. The strata and air bubbles trapped in these treasured translucent cylinders, only a dozen centimetres in diameter, may include as much as 300 years of local weather historical past.

Race in opposition to time

The race is on for glaciologists, who “are seeing their primary material disappear forever from the surface of the planet”, Jerome Chappellaz, president of the Ice Reminiscence basis, advised AFP on April 3.

“It is our responsibility as glaciologists of this generation to make sure a bit of it is preserved.”

When the researchers had three ice samples, the temperature in Svalbard shot as much as -3C, turning a part of the route again to their base on the Ny-Alesund analysis station right into a treacherous torrent of water.

Two of the ice cores made it base however the third continues to be caught on the drilling web site, ready for extra clement climate to be shipped out.

Within the meantime, Ice Reminiscence has put out a global plea to different researchers.

“We do need (them)… rapidly to collect samples from endangered glaciers or to save… already collected ice cores, to preserve these very precious data in the Ice Memory sanctuary in Antarctica,” mentioned paleoclimatologist and Ice Reminiscence vice-chair Carlo Barbante.

“If we lose archives like this, we will lose the memory of human alteration of the climate,” pressured Ice Reminiscence director Anne-Catherine Ohlmann.

“We will also lose crucial information for future scientists and policymakers, who will have to make decisions for the well-being of society.”

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