Tag 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

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.

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)

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

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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?