Category Archives: Research

Just in time… after 7000 years!

The bottom ice of the Ortles Glacier is 7000 years old and now … is moving.

“It is possible that some meltwater infiltrated in depth from the rock outcrops and it is now lubricating the glacier base during the current exceptionally warm summers, thus facilitating basal ice sliding.” explains the project leader Paolo Gabrielli. “It means that information about the past climate contained in this glacier are going to be lost forever. Thus, when in 2011 four ice cores were retrieved from the Ortles glacier, we arrived just in time to extract the deep ice before it moved away.”
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Findings of the research carried out by an international team show that the deepest ice of Ortles Glacier formed around 7000 years ago at the end of a warm period, the so-called Northern Hemisphere Climatic Optimum. Afterward, a cold period started, the so-called Neoglatiacion. It is not just a case that the world-famous mummy of the Tyrolean Iceman, that dates back to that period, was discovered nearby in 1991.

The ice cores retrieved from the Ortles Glacier are important not only to reconstruct the past climate of the area but also for studying modern climate change relationships from a small scale to a global one. This is valid for all the low latitude glaciers that, unfortunately, are disappearing and losing invaluable information they have preserved for thousands of years.
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This concern led to an International program with a striking name, the “Ice Memory Project“.

“Ice cores from low latitude glaciers will be stored in the coldest place on the Earth, Antarctica” explains Prof. Carlo Barbante ” In this way they will be available for further research of the next generation of scientists which will have more powerful technology”
This is the real nature of research: seeking into the past to look forward!

For more information read the entire article

Ortles Day: Research meets School through the Atlantic Ocean

Just some decades ago it would have been incredible to still imagine it! Three research centers in different locations connected to speak about science in front of an audience of students, teachers and researchers from different countries. This is what happened during the first ” Ortles Day”.

The multi-broadcast event among the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center at The Ohio State University, the European Academy or Research of Bolzano (Italy) and the Botanical Institute of the University of Innsbruck (Austria) has been a success in science and outreach. Topics of the meeting: ice cores, pollens and their use in the paleoclimatology. But the undisputed protagonist of the day has been the Ortles Project, that in 2016 turns 8 years old.

The value of this kind of event is building bridges between research and school that in countries,such as Italy, are really disconnected from each other. Students, both Italians and Americans, present at the meeting gave a vital impulse to the organization. They represent the future of science and the whole planet.

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Here the program of the event.

WHAT DOES THE ICE TELL US?

A first indication that ancient ice was still present in the Tyrolean Alps arose from the 1991 discovery of the famous ~5200 years old Tyrolean Ice Man who emerged from the low elevation ablating ice field of the Hauslabjoch (3210 m) located ~30 km from Mt. Ortles, the highest mountain in South Tyrol, in the Italian Eastern Alps. This discovery provided an exceptional time window into our past history, focusing on how humans were interacting with the Alpine environment in the Neolithic and how rapid climate change may have affected their life, also contributing to bury the Tyrolean Ice Man first in snow and then in ice.

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The 5.2 kyr old Tyrolean Ice Man (right) that emerged in 1991 from the ablating ice at the Hauslabjoch, ~30 km north of Mt. Ortles. Landesgendarmeriekommando fur Tirol/Austria

Paleoclimatology from Mount Ortles to the USA

Who?

Hi! My name is Giuliano and I come from Venosta Valley (Italy), a beautiful, tiny place in the heart of the European Alps. Given my background in environmental physics and my passion for the mountains, the ice and nature brought me to the new job I have started.

Me hiking in South Tyrol (Photo: Giuliano Bertagna)
Me hiking in South Tyrol (Photo: Giuliano Bertagna)

Where?
I work at the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center in Columbus, Ohio, in the USA. This is one of the few research teams in the world that specializes in retrieving ice cores from high altitude areas and glaciers, such as the Alps. My project will last two years and will be summarized in a final report about climate and glaciers in the Bolzano Province.

The Byrd Research Center in Columbus, Ohio, USA (Photo: Giuliano Bertagna)
The Byrd Research Center in Columbus, Ohio, USA (Photo: Giuliano Bertagna)
Mount Ortles and Columbus, Ohio in the world
Mount Ortles and Columbus, Ohio in the world

High altitude illness

EURAC Institute of Mountain Emergency Medicine

 

Staying two weeks at almost 4000 m on the peak of Ortles Mountain is not only a stress for the body but also a considerable logistical difficulty in the case of a rescue” says Giacomo Strapazzon, vice head of the EURAC Institute of Mountain Emergency Medicine. It is for this reason that the Ortles project members needed an assistance medical team during the field work. But beyond the safety aspect, the expedition had ideal characteristics to perform an independent study on high altitude illnesses. In contrast to previous work in this field in which participants are monitoring during gradual ascent at high altitude, our participants were transported by helicopter to 4000 m, i.e. without physical effort and within a few minutes, and remained at this altitude for 2 weeks. This allowed complete monitoring of the acute acclimatization process of the body after this rapid ascent to altitude. The medical research included traditional clinical examination as well as ultrasonography and blood analysis before and during the expedition. Ultrasonography of the optic nerve and lungs were tested as a possible tool for early diagnosis of high altitude pulmonary or cerebral edema, two of the most important causes of death among mountaineers.

In memory of Roberto Filippi

A new fund has been established by the Byrd Polar Research Center in memory of our friend and colleague Roberto Filippi to support alpine research, specifically the study of the Mount Ortles ice cores recently collected in South Tyrol (Italy) as part of the Ortles Project.

Roberto Filippi was a visiting Italian scholar from Trentino-Alto Adige (Italy) at the Byrd Polar Research Center in the Ice Core Paleoclimatology Group from April 2009 until June 2010. During that period, he was involved in projects that mapped the retreat of the Quelccaya ice cap (Peru) and the ice fields of Kilimanjaro (Tanzania). He also participated in ice-core drilling projects in the Cordillera Blanca (Peru) and in the Antarctic Peninsula.

Roberto was much loved at the Byrd Polar Research Center for those qualities that every scientist should hold dear: curiosity, determination, humility, and timing. He was 29 years old in 2011 when he fell into a crevasse and died on a glacier on Mount Blanc in the French-Italian Alps.The new fund in memory of Roberto Filippi supports students and researchers (visiting researchers and postdocs) in performing paleoclimatological, glacialogical, and environmental research in alpine systems through travel and field-related expenses. Those that would like to make a donation can give to OSU Fund Number 314531 or visit https://www.giveto.osu.edu/igive/onlinegiving/fund_results.aspx?fund=314531.

 

First results 2013

 

 An unprecedented change in the Ortles glacier

After two years of study of the highest glacier of South Tyrol and the Eastern Alps, the researchers present their results.

These are geologists, climatologists, and medical doctors from more than 20 different institutions from around the world. In common they have their source of research information. During 2011 they were involved in a scientific expedition on Mt. Ortles to gather information and study this glacier, climate and the high altitude environment.

Two years after the expedition the project partners have met in a workshop that was held on September the 10th  at EURAC in Bolzano (Italy). They have presented results of the principal studies, evaluated new research perspectives and possible collaborations.

Permafrost & boreholes. Activities 2012

In 2012, the investigations on permafrost and ice boreholes were mainly focused on the retrieving of the instrumental data and the maintenance of the instrumentation. These activities were coordinated by the University of Pavia (Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences) and the Office for Geology and Building Materials Testing of the Autonomous Province of Bolzano with the cooperation of the Ohio State University (Byrd Polar Research Center), the University of Padova (Department of Land, Environment, Agriculture and Forestry and Department of Geosciences), the Hydrographic Office of the Autonomous Province of Bolzano and the University of Venezia (Department of Environmental Sciences, Informatics and Statistics).

Observations in summer 2012

During the summer of 2012, the activities on Mt. Ortles were aimed at achieving two main goals: maintenance of the automatic weather station (AWS, Figure 1) and the measurement of the mass balance on the site of the AWS and on the drilling site performed in 2011. These activities were coordinated by researchers of the Department of Land, Environment, Agriculture and Forestry of the University of Padova and of the Department of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, University of Udine, which have installed the weather station and carry on glaciological and hydrological investigations in the Eastern Italian Alps, mainly focused on the Ortles-Cevedale massif. Investigations were carried out in cooperation with the Byrd Polar Research Center of Ohio State University, the Hydrographic Office of the Autonomous Province of Bolzano, the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences (University of Pavia), the Department of Geosciences (University of Padova) and the Environmental Science Department (University of Venice)

Permafrost

 

Permafrost is one of the main components of the Earth’s cryosphere, which is a word indicating all the ice existing on Earth. It is defined as “any subsurface material which remains at or below a temperature of 0°C for at least two consecutive years” and mainly occurs in high-latitude areas of the northern hemisphere (look at its distribution map here).

Permafrost may also exist at high altitude areas of the mid- and low-latitudes, such as the Alps