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The Grotta del Gelo Project



The Grotta del Gelo (literally Cave of Ice), which is located at 2043 m a.s.l on the north flank of Mount Etna volcano (Sicily, Italy, 37°48'27.3"N 14°58'19.9"E), is the southernmost ice cave over Europe. Alike other caves at Mount Etna, the Grotta del Gelo is a lava tube resulting from the volcanic activity. Specifically, it formed during the historic long-lasting eruption of 1614-24. Despite its position in terms of latitude and geological setting, peculiar conditions of thermal equilibrium started to develop (e.g., temperature fluctuation around zero, cold-air trap, etc.) after about twenty years from the end of eruption, leading to the gradual process of subterranean freezing inside the cave. Ice occurs in several forms in the cave, namely: seasonal lake ice, stalactites, stalagmites and columns close to the entrance, perennial ground ice in the deepest zone. The surface covered by the glacier reaches about 240 m2, with an estimated ice volume of 220-260 m3.

In order to develop an air circulation model, a network of data loggers was installed on May 2013. These have recorded the air temperature, with steps of 15 minutes, inside and outside the cave. Furthermore to evaluate variations of the ice block from morphological and volumetric standpoints, topographic surveys using a digital theodolite have been performed in different periods. Following this systematic method, the final result will be the development of a 3D model of the cave and of the ground ice, showing hypogeal ablation and variations of the volume over the years.

Project Leaders Federico Scoto (Uni Catania), (federicoscoto@gmail.com) - Valter Maggi (UNIMIB) (valter.maggi@unimib.it)



The MONICA Project


On days 30 September and 1-2 October 2013, a 7.8 m long ice core has been extracted from a permanent ice cave deposit in the Southeastern Alps (Vasto’s cave, Mt.Canin - Julian Alps). Each 20 to 100 cm long section of the ice core have been immediately stored in plastic bags and preserved thanks to dry ice. The ice samples, thanks to the helicopter, has been subsequently brought on valley and promptly stored in a refrigerated van, made available by BoFrost. Thus the ice cores has been transported intact to the EUROCOLD laboratory in University of Milano Bicocca. These operations have been carried out within the project MONICA (MONitoring of Ice within CAves) promoted by University of Trieste, Italy thanks to the “Finanziamento di Ateneo per progetti di ricerca scientifica-FRA 2012”. The choice of the place where to extract the ice core has been selected after a dedicated high-resolution GPR survey performed on the surface of the ice deposit. This methodology allowed to visualize and avoid debris and boulders present in the ice deposit that could have damaged the tip of the ice driller. In this way it was possible to extract the longest core ever extracted in the Italian Alps in an ice cave. The ice core has been cut and stored thanks to the EUROCOLD facilities and a detailed full stratigraphic analysis has been realized. All the samples are now ready to be analyzed by using isotope geochemistry techniques (δ18O and δD), crystallographic analysis and C14 radiocarbon dating of organic materials. The preliminary results allow us to hypothesize the use of additional methods for a complete characterization of this very interesting potential paleoclimatic record.




ref: Roberto Colucci - ISMAR Trieste (Italy) r.colucci@ts.ismar.cnr.it



Field activities


                  
May 2014 - Radar survey at Shellemberger ice caves


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