Environment and climate data from ice cores

The international scientific community has been studying non-polar ice cores for over 25 years, as indicators of climate variability and environmental change. Ice cores have been extracted from the glaciers of the Andes in South America, Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa, Tibet, in various sites in the Himalayas, Alaska, Russia, and also the Alps. Tropical, subtropical and mid-latitude glaciers offer unique information, with a high temporal resolution of recent climate variability in areas for which there is limited availability of data on past climate. They also supply information on the evolution of anthropogenic pollution processes and natural climate-altering processes in specific continental regions. In addition, thanks to their high-altitude locations (4,000 to 6,000 m), mountain ice cores provide information on the middle troposphere in relation to large-scale climate change.

The WP 1.4 envisages an important phase of technological development to reduce the impact of the activities in ice on high-altitude glaciers, by developing an energy production system based on high-efficiency solar panels. Moreover, it aims to develop systems that allow measurements directly on ice, without sampling and melting. Two specific areas of development are foreseen: the measurement of dielectric properties of ice and infrared-based measurements. The purpose is therefore to minimize the consumption of a resource intended for preservation, while obtaining valuable information.

First yearAn ice core drilling of 32 m was performed on the Lys Glacier at the Colle del Lys (Valle d'Aosta, Italy). The ice core was processed in the Eurocold Lab in DISAT-UNIMIB, obtaining the stratigraphy and the density profile. Two sites for new ice core drillings were defined (Colle Gnifetti, Italian Alps and South Gasherbrum glacier, Karakorum, Pakistan).

Second year: Atmospheric dust measurements of the 2012 ice core at Colle del Lys; new ice core drilling at Colle del Lys, planning of the next Himalaya-Karakoram ice core drilling activities and exploration of the logistical possibilities for the South Gasherbrum (Karakoram) glacier. Development of mineral dust optical properties measurement system and auto-inflatable tend for remote camp activities. Reconstruction of mineral dust record from the 2012 Colle del Lys ice core and reconstruction of the staked dust curve, from about 1930. Preliminary dating of the dust curve also by density firn/ice modelling. Geophysical measurements (radar) of the Baltoro Glacier (Pakistani Karakoram) and site selection for the 2014 ice drilling activities in the Gasherbrum I area, with reconstruction of the bedrock topography and presence of submerged crevasses. If possible,  reconstruction of the radar stratigraphy of the selected drilling site. Ice core drilling until bedrock of the Lys Glacier for extend the climate records more than a century, using the 8 cm diameter drilling system from IceField©Canada (EvK2-CNR), that permits to reach the 250 m depth. In collaboration with the Physics Dept. of the University of Milano, development of a measurement system to define the optical properties of the mineral dust and reduce the size distribution to 0.2 micro-meter diameter. A new light-weight auto-inflatable tent will be developed in collaboration with the Physics Dept. of the University of Milano, for use in cold and remote areas such as the Karakoram or the Himalaya mountains. Lab tests will done at EuroCold UNIMIB and at Colle del Lys (Valle d’Aosta). Glaciological surveys on the Ortles glacier will be performed, in order to sample the seasonal snowpack and download data from the automatic weather station. These surveys will take place at the beginning (September) and end (June) of each accumulation season. The firn and ice cores collected on the Ortles glacier will be cut into two sub-cores. We will decontaminate and analyze the first core using a continuous melting system developed at the IDPA-CNR laboratories. The concentration of 20 TEs, black carbon (BC), dust as well as electric conductivity will be continuously measured, reaching a resolution < 5 mm. We will also directly collect discrete samples from the melting device at high resolution (20 to 50 mm) for heavy metals, Pb isotopes, and levoglucosan. The other sub-core will be subdivided to provide samples for stable isotopes (resolution ranging from 10 to 30 mm.