Climate change: Scientists to store ice for posterity in Antarctica

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Scientists are planning to ship ice to Antarctica! Reason: Since mountain glaciers around the globe are melting as a result of the climate change, they want to store samples of ice in a new vault in the coldest place on Earth.

“We measured the temperature inside the glacier in 1994 and when we went to the same place in 2005 there was a warming of 1.5C,” says Jerome Chappellaz, of the French National Centre for Scientific Research.

The centre is involved in constructing the store for ice on the Antarctica. In 2016, the Col du Dome will become the first contributor to an Antarctic ice vault.

At 4,350 metre the Col du Dome sits just below the summit of Mont Blanc. Covered in snow, it appears to be a permanent, frozen fixture in the Alps.

“When it comes to non-polar glaciers, because of global warming, a lot of them are going to disappear and those at the highest altitudes are experiencing summer melting,” he said.

A snow cave will be crated at the Concordia Research Station — a permanently manned base, jointly operated by scientists from France and Italy.

The teams will collect three ice cores from the Alps and three from the Andes. Two from each location will be taken to Antarctica while the others will be sent to a laboratory in France for analysis.

Stored safely in a giant frozen trench, the ice cores can be sealed in bags 10 metre below the surface where the temperature maintains a steady temperature of -50C.

“They have to be bought down to base camp. And it has to be done at night because in the day it is too warm and that could be dangerous for the ice cores,” says Chappellaz.

“With global warming, even if Antarctica warms up by a few degrees, we know the ice will be safe there for decades or centuries to come,” said Chappellaz.

The storage unit in Peterborough keeps the ice at -20C and research facilities can go down to -30C, but Robert Mulvaney, a glaciologist with the British Antarctic Survey said, “If the ice is not stored at the same temperature it has been collected, then it the ice will  deteriorate over time.”

 

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