Summer school in Glaciology 2014


The 4th edition of the summer school in Glaciology, organized in the framework of the Ortles Project, involved 22 students from Italian and German high schools of the Province of Bolzano.

The summer school occurred between Sep. the 16thand 19th at the Hotel Refuge Franzenshöhe, located at 2200 m along the road to the Stelvio Pass in South Tyrol. The first day of the summer school the students learned the geological and petrographic properties of metamorphic rocks that are typical of the Stelvio area (paragneiss and orthogneiss). In addition permafrost and the role that it plays in shaping the landscape were studied.

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


Summer School in Glaciology 2013

The third edition of the Summer School in Glaciology for high school students of the Province of Bolzano has taken place between the 17th and 21st of September. This event has been organized in collaboration with the Departments of Education (Italian and German languages) of the Province of Bolzano, EURAC, the National Natural Park of Stelvio and the Hydrographic Office of the Province of Bolzano.

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 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

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.


Campus di glaciologia 2012

Pochi giorni fa si è conclusa la seconda edizione del Campus di Glaciologia 2012 realizzato dai dipartimenti istruzione di lingua italiana e tedesca della Provincia Autonoma di Bolzano.


22 studenti di entrambe le lingue, appartenenti a 11 differenti scuole della provincia di Bolzano, hanno trascorso 5 giorni (dal 17 al 22 Settembre) molto intensi e fatti di incontri con ricercatori, guide e responsabili del Parco dello Stelvio, escursioni sul territorio e laboratori didattici con lo scopo di conoscere da vicino natura, ruolo e metodi di studio dei ghiacciai.

La sede di svolgimento del Campus è stata l’Hotel Franzehohe situato a pochi chilometri dal Passo dello Stelvio sul versante di Bolzano. Il programma del corso ha permesso agli studenti di seguire una presentazione del Dott Gabrielli (Coordinatore scientifico del progetto Ortles) che ha parlato via Skype dagli Stati Uniti. L’escursione si è svolta sul Ghiacciaio di Solda, con l’ausilio di guide alpine e istruttori, ed ha permesso agli studenti di raggiungere la Cima Solda.

Il prossimo appuntamento è  dal 22 al 24 Ottobre 2012 presso l’EURAC (Bolzano) dove si svolgeranno le giornate della Scienza. In quell’occasione gli studenti parleranno della loro esperienza.