The Ice Memory operation saved Arctic climate heritage after an expedition endangered by unexpected meltwater

Despite obstacles posed by unexpected high water content in the snow layers and extreme weather conditions, an international team of scientists was able to drill three deep ice cores on Holtedahlfonna, one of the largest and highest glaciers in the Svalbard Archipelago

This successful operation should ensure the analysis and preservation of a precious Arctic climate archive. Today, operations will begin to safely transfer people, ice cores, and equipment from the remote camp at 1,150 metres altitude to the research station of Ny-Ålesund, 80 kilometres distant. Those activities are expected to last a couple of days, bringing the total operation’s duration to 23 days.

Led by the Institute of Polar Sciences of the National Research Council of Italy (CNR) and involving scientists from the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS, France), Norwegian Polar Institute (NPI), Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, and the University of Perugia, the ice core drilling mission is almost achieved. The 3 collected ice cores represent an important scientific and cultural heritage in the current context of strong Arctic warming. Two of the samples will be crucial to better understand climate change in a region where impacts are going four times faster than the global average. Furthermore, the Ice Memory Foundation will preserve one of the ice cores for centuries to come at the dedicated Ice Memory sanctuary in Antarctica. Future generations of scientists will thereby have access to high-quality ice cores to study new tracers related with the past environmental conditions of our planet and to anticipate future changes, long after the glacier will have disappeared due to global warming.

The Ice Memory Foundation calling for international support

The Ice Memory Foundation, which collects, saves and manages ice cores from currently endangered glaciers to hand them over to the next generations of scientists for decades and centuries to come, strongly calls for action with the ice core research community.

“As alarming are these situations in Arctic, in Europe and elsewhere on the planet, we do need now from the researchers to contribute rapidly to collect samples from endangered glaciers or to save in Antarctica already collected ice cores, as to preserve these very precious data in the Ice Memory sanctuary in Antarctica”, calls Carlo Barbante, paleoclimatologist, Vice Chairman of the Ice Memory Foundation, director of the CNR’s Institute of Polar Sciences, professor at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice.

For Anne-Catherine Ohlmann, director of the Ice Memory Foundation “Ice Memory is a cross-generational initiative that engages us all today: scientists, philanthropists, international organisations… and will benefit our children and our children’s children. If we lose archives like this, we will lose the memory of human alteration of the climate. We must all work together to safeguard this archive for future generations. We call on nations to cooperate with their scientists, to facilitate access to their glaciers, so that our generation can offer this precious legacy to the humanity of tomorrow”.

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