Category Archives: Research

Initial results

The first results from the Ortles ice cores were recently presented at the international paleoclimatology conference IPICS 2012 (International Partnerships in Ice Core Science) in Marseille, France. The cores were drilled last year under the auspices of the international “Ortles Project”.

The “Ortles Project” is an international research project coordinated by the Byrd Polar Research Center, Ohio State University and the autonomous province of Bolzano. The research is funded by the National Science Foundation and includes scientific collaboration with IDPA-CNR Venice, The University of Innsbruck, The University of Bern, The Russian Academy of Sciences, The University of Padova (TeSAF), the geological survey of the province of Bolzano, the University of Pavia, Waterstones srl, and the remote sensing group at EURAC in Bolzano.

 

The research scope uses a series of Ortles ice cores drilled to bedrock as an archive of past climate conditions affecting the Eastern Alps. “The ice core study is accompanied by monitoring the Ortles ice cap as a strategic observatory of climate change affecting high altitude sites, with particular attention to the physical variations in the ice mass and permafrost extent,” explains Roberto Dinale from the provincial hydrological office.

Dr. Paolo Gabrielli presented the initial results from the ice cores that were drilled to bedrock (approximately 75 m depth) one year ago at the summit of Ortles (3859 masl) in Alto Adige. Dr. Gabrielli presented these results at the recent international paleoclimatology conference IPICS 2012 (International Partnerships in Ice Core Science) in Marseille, France.

Although melting has affected the surface of the Ortles glaciers during recent summers, deeper glacial ice has conserved an annual archive of past atmospheric chemistry. The analyses, coordinated by Paolo Gabrielli of the Byrd Polar Research Center, Ohio State University, demonstrate that the ice from a depth of 41 m demonstrate characteristic radioisotope layers resulting from atmospheric nuclear testing in 1963. This marker is identifiable in ice cores from Antartica to Greenland, and is a frequently used stratigraphic marker for dating ice cores. “Along these lines, we also extracted a pine needle at 74 m depth that has been transported by wind to these high altitudes in the past, which allowed us to carbon-14 date the basal Ortles ice to a date of approximately 2664 years before present, which corresponds with the second Iron Age,” explains Dr. Gabrielli.

“These first results”, explains Hanspeter Staffler, director of the civil and fire protection of the province of Bolzano, “ are encouraging as they verify that we were able to recover this important archive of climate and environmental information before they were compromised by melting caused by the increased summer temperatures over the past 30 years”. Ongoing and future analyses will provide more precise climatic indications over the time period encompassed by the Ortles ice cores.

 

1st March 2012 Interview to N. Kehrwald

nat-kehr

How did you happen to take part in scientific expeditions in extreme environments?

I vividly remember the first time that I saw a mountain over 6000 meters in elevation. I was invited to be a member of a mountaineering expedition in Perù, and when we first arrived, I was scanning the horizon for the mountains that we were going to climb. I was used to 4000 m mountains in Colorado, and so I immediately began looking at a certain altitude. I had to keep looking higher and higher, and when I eventually saw the summit I mumbled something along the lines of, “We are going to climb THAT?!”.  The immensity of the mountains and glaciers give an impression of a very permanent presence.

4 Feb 2012 Interview to G.V. Hofer

Today, we publish another interview with a participant in the autumn 2011 scientific expedition to the Ortler mountain. The person interviewed is Valentin Hofer, a doctor who took part as a member of the mountain rescue service and as a Eurac researcher/consultant.

How did you get to work on the Ortler project?

I was invited by the EURAC Institute of Alpine Emergency Medicine, both as a mountain emergency doctor and as a scientific consultant for a EURAC high altitude medicine project, which was associated with the Ortler project.

What is your particular scientific interest in high altitudes?

As a mountain emergency doctor I’m primarily interested in the various kinds of altitude sickness. Not only is the sickness itself interesting, but also possible connections to accidents on the mountain.

What kind of atmosphere was there among the participants in the camp at altitude?

Aggiornamento 2011

Almost three months have passed since the “hot” phase of the Ortler project, meaning those three weeks in September and October 2011, when an international research team extracted for the very first time an ice core from the bottom of the summit of the Ortler glacier in the Eastern Alps. This happened four times: the team was able to extract a 75 metre ice core three times and a 60 metre core once.

During that same period some 20 high school students from the surrounding area got involved through educational activities organised by the same researchers. The goal was to bring teachers and students to the place where the research was taking place – and while it was ongoing – in order to allow them to “witness” the research.

3 November Interview with Paolo Gabrielli

A few days ago the “Science Day” took place in Bolzano/Bozen at EURAC. The Science Day is a type of fair where projects, proposals and ideas for teaching science in the Autonomous Province of Bolzano/Bozen were presented. The ORTLER project was presented as well and we were able to see close up how much has been happening around this project so far. We will soon publish new posts including pictures and reports about the work currently going on in all participating schools.

Today we have the honour of publishing an interview with Dr. Paolo Gabrielli, a researcher from the Trentino region in Italy, who is also the scientific coordinator of the project. He was able to answer to some of our questions shortly before returning to work at the Byrd Polar Centre of the Ohio State University of Columbus (USA).

Paolo, you are shortly due to go back to the USA. Four ice cores, three of them reaching down to the rock underneath the glacier, were extracted. Were you expecting such a result a few months ago?

To tell you the truth, yes, I was expecting this, although the extraction of four ice cores was our most ambitious goal. We had prepared everything in such a way that would allow this result. I would have considered extracting one such ice core, reaching down to the rock, a success. This was not a certainty at the outset… especially considering the technical difficulties we had during the operations.

What are the unique features of this project?

18 October – The outcome

Below is a short summary report of what happened on the Ortler project over the course of the last month.

Between 23 September and6 October 2011, four ice cores were extracted at 3,860 metres from the “Vedretta Alta dell’Ortles” glacier in South Tyrol. This is the first time ice cores have been extracted from the Eastern Alps. The rock, which lies 75 metres below the glacier, was reached during three of the extractions, whereas during the last operation, perforation only reached 60 metres.

13th October 3-1. Let’s summarise!

Today we would like to summarise what’s happened so far.

As you might have guessed, the group of researchers has left the summit glacier of the Ortler mountain where perforation activities had been taking place. They took down all structures beginning the afternoon of 6 October and left the site the following morning. The helicopter had to make 20 return flights in order to bring all the material down to the valley, including the four precious ice cores which had been extracted during four separate operations.

4 October 2011 – …and a THIRD!

Yesterday the researchers and technicians were able to extract another ice core from the summit glacier of the Ortler mountain. For the third time within just a few days they were able to reach the rocks on which the glacier lies.

This time, not only the climatic but also the perforation conditions were particularly favourable. Since the upper layers only contained little melt water, which therefore did not obstruct the hole, the perforation was faster.