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. »
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.
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!
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