The study of the mass balance, melt water production and the ice flow regime are crucial for the successful interpretation of the ice core data. In addition Mt. Ortles offers a unique opportunity to investigate the climatic sensitivity of the high and remote areas in the Eastern Alps (see Education > Why Ortles? “). The mass balance of this glacier and the linked meteorological/climatological conditions are now being monitored (only very few measurements are available on the Alps at similar altitudes) during two years after the drilling program that took place in September 2011.
Here the collaboration among the institutes involved in the Ortles Project which have interest in high-altitude Automatic Weather Stations (AWS), is proposed. A AWS near the summit of Mt. Ortles was set up, for a short-term (2011 to 2013) monitoring program of key meteorological variables and energy exchange processes. The AWS measures the air temperature, relative humidity, wind speed and direction, incoming/outgoing shortwave/longwave radiation, ice temperature at various depths and snow depth. Some ablation stakes were located around the drilling site, in order to investigate the spatial variability of the mass balance. In addition, some snow pits were dug to identify the previous year’s summer snow surface, to measure snow density and internal accumulation. These activities also serve to measure the surface velocity field of the glacier.
The chemical study of the surface snow and firn layers performed during the last few years on Vedretta Alta dell’Ortles is functional to the interpretation of the same parameters analysed in the future ice core. In particular is important to determine trace metals, major ions and several organics pollutants. This also allows to verify the seasonal depositions of contaminants and to cross test the classic glaciological observations by means of a chemical approach. It will be extremely interesting to extend the initiated monitoring activity of the chemical species deposited on the Vedretta Alta dell’Ortles in order to evaluate possible environmental trends of contaminants of natural and anthropogenic origin.
Therefore, will be continued the annual sampling of a snow pit during one day of the springs 2011-2013. This program will be integrated to the glaciological program. The snow pit will have a typical depth of 2-3 meters and will reach the firn of the previous year (sampling resolution 5-10 cm). These chemical analyses will be compared with the glaciological and meteorological data obtained at the same site.