Scientists scramble to harvest ice cores as glaciers melt – Reuters


Click on this link to see a Reuters interactive graphicSept 13 (Reuters) – Scientists are racing to collect ice cores– along with long-frozen records they hold of environment cycles– as worldwide warming melts glaciers and ice sheets. Some say they are lacking time. And, in some cases, its currently too late.Late in 2015, German-born chemist Margit Schwikowski and a group of global scientists tried to gather ice cores from the Grand Combin glacier, high on the Swiss-Italian border, for a United Nations-backed environment monitoring effort.In 2018, they had scouted the website by helicopter and drilled a shallow test core. The core was in good condition, said Schwikowski: It had well-preserved atmospheric gases and chemical proof of previous climates, and ground-penetrating radar showed a deep glacier. Not all glaciers in the Alps maintain both summer and winter snowfall; if all went as planned, these cores would have been the oldest to date that did, she said.But in the 2 years it took for the researchers to return with a full drilling set-up, some of the information that had actually been caught in the ice had actually disappeared. Freeze-thaw cycles had created icy layers and meltwater swimming pools throughout the glacier, what another staff member referred to as a water-laden sponge, rendering the core useless for fundamental climate science.The abrupt deterioration “tells us precisely how sensitive these glaciers are,” said Schwikowski, head of the analytical chemistry group at the Paul Scherrer Institute in Villigen, Switzerland. “We were just 2 years too late.” The objective on Grand Combin highlights the significant obstacle scientists deal with today in gathering ice cores: Some glaciers are vanishing faster than anticipated. The realization is prompting restored urgency, triggering those who concentrate on harvesting ice cores to speed up missions, reassess where to target next, and expand storage capacity.( Click here to see a Reuters interactive graphic revealing how researchers draw out ice cores and obtain historical environment records.) Practically all of the worlds glaciers are shrinking, according to the United Nations. In its most extensive climate report to date, published in August, the UN concluded that “human impact is highly likely the main chauffeur of the near-universal retreat of glaciers globally considering that the 1990s.” The report likewise said that without instant, massive action, the average worldwide temperature will reach or exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius above the preindustrial temperature average within 20 years.The rate at which glaciers are losing mass is also increasing. A study published in April in the science journal Nature found glaciers lost 227 gigatons of ice each year from 2000 to 2004, however that increased to an average of 298 gigatons a year after 2015. A gigaton is the equivalent of one billion metric lots. One gigaton of ice would fill New York Citys Central Park and stand 341 meters (1,119 feet) high.About 10% of the acreage on earth is currently covered with glacial ice, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado.If a glacier is melting and no longer collecting snow, it suggests it likewise isnt catching atmospheric gases from today for researchers to study in the future.Two years back, the south peak of Swedens Kebnekaise mountain lost its classification as the countrys acme after a 3rd of its top glacier melted.For Schwikowski, the disappearance of glaciers isnt just a professional blow; its an emotional hit, too. “The mountains look different without them, barren,” she said. In the Alps, the mountains without glaciers are “absolutely frightening.”” COMPLETE SHOCK” Last September, Schwikowski stood bundled in snow gear as damp cylinders of ice were winched out of the boreholes on Grand Combin. The wetness amazed her, she stated. Freezing meltwater drained from ice core pieces that need to have been strong. And the core, which should have been translucent, had sections that were perfectly clear.Ice cores like those from Grand Combin have helped scientists show mankinds effect on earths climate by supplying a record of greenhouse gases going back well before industrialization. The ice maintains tiny air bubbles– direct evidence of previous environments. Ice also records air contaminants, pollen and other temperature and precipitation measures in a single archive, all on the same time scale, in some cases at the resolution of individual seasons.Another member of the Grand Combin exploration, Italian climate scientist Carlo Barbante, stated the speed at which the ice on the Alpine massif had actually melted in the last few years was “much greater than it was in the past.” Finding the wet cores was a “total shock,” he said.As an outcome, Barbante and other researchers – including Schwikowski – accelerated strategies to draw out a core from the Colle Gnifetti glacier on the top of the Alps Monte Rosa, a couple of hundred meters greater than Grand Combin. In June, numerous months previously than originally scheduled, they introduced. The two cores they drilled were of great quality, Barbante said.Barbante stated he is also hoping to arrange a journey to Mount Kilimanjaro, Africas highest mountain and the only possible ice core website left on the continent, next year or the year after. One research study mentioned in the current UN report computed that contemporary warming has currently set in motion melting that will get rid of all glaciers on the mountain by 2060. A 2009 discovery by American scientist Douglas Hardy of the mummified remains of a 19th century pig on among the acmes of the mountains glaciers suggests some of the environment history the scientists are hoping to retrieve is already gone. “The implication of that is that weve lost [the] last 200 years worth of taped time,” stated Hardy.Barbante and Schwikowski are part of a scientist-led group called Ice Memory that is trying to construct an archive of ice cores from glaciers all over the world. Ice Memory is backed by the UNs primary cultural company, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Far they have actually drilled in Europe, Bolivia and Russia. The cores are temporarily being stored in Europe, but the plan is to deliver them to Antarctica for long-term storage because the site wouldnt depend upon power, which could suffer a blackout.” A a century from now, when the Alpine glaciers will be completely vanished, we will have the samples” for future generations of scientists, said Barbante.EXPANDING ICE STORAGEBeyond greenhouse gases, researchers state they may be able to use ice cores to study the DNA of ancient germs and infections that could reemerge as the world warms. Frozen insects and plant pollen might likewise reveal histories of the worlds forests and their fire cycles.Another group of scientists, whose findings were released in July in clinical journal Microbiome, discovered viruses almost 15,000 years of ages in 2 ice core samples taken from the Tibetan Plateau in China. The findings recognized hereditary codes for 33 viruses, at least 28 of which were brand-new to scientists.That group of scientists consisted of U.S.-based ice core paleoclimatologists Lonnie Thompson and Ellen Mosley-Thompson, who are other half and wife.Lonnie Thompson stated the speed at which ice is vanishing has actually driven strategies to expand his ice core storage centers at Ohio State University, which he started fundraising for last year. He wishes to raise $7 million. So far he has raised about $475,000 through pledges and contributions, according to the schools Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center. The remodelling will double the centers storage capacity to more than 13,550 meters of ice cores.Some of the cores Thompson and his group have collected are the only staying ice from some glaciers. Two of the 6 ice core sites on Kilimanjaro in Africa that his team drilled back in 2000 have actually vanished. So have sites they drilled in 2010 in Papua, Indonesia. Others will likely be gone within 50 years, said Thompson.In some cases, lakes formed on the glaciers surfaces as the ice melted, a warning that indicated melting could be much faster than models previously forecasted. He stated it was a wakeup call that cores required to be harvested as soon as possible.” Ice has a fantastic archive of not just the climate, but likewise the forcings of environment,” the significant reasons for environment change, Thompson stated. “Those histories are at danger as the earth warms and the glaciers retreat.” Reporting by Cassandra Garrison in Mexico City, Clare Baldwin in Hong Kong and Marco Hernandez in Singapore
Modified by Simon Scarr, Katy Daigle and Cassell Bryan-LowOur Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Click here to view a Reuters interactive graphicSept 13 (Reuters) – Scientists are racing to gather ice cores– along with long-frozen records they hold of climate cycles– as international warming melts glaciers and ice sheets. One gigaton of ice would fill New York Citys Central Park and stand 341 meters (1,119 feet) high.About 10% of the land area on earth is presently covered with glacial ice, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado.If a glacier is melting and no longer building up snow, it indicates it likewise isnt catching atmospheric gases from today for researchers to study in the future.Two years ago, the south peak of Swedens Kebnekaise mountain lost its designation as the countrys highest point after a 3rd of its top glacier melted.For Schwikowski, the disappearance of glaciers isnt simply a professional blow; its a psychological hit, too.” A hundred years from now, when the Alpine glaciers will be totally vanished, we will have the samples” for future generations of researchers, stated Barbante.EXPANDING ICE STORAGEBeyond greenhouse gases, researchers state they may be able to utilize ice cores to study the DNA of ancient germs and viruses that might reemerge as the world warms. The findings determined genetic codes for 33 infections, at least 28 of which were new to scientists.That group of scientists included U.S.-based ice core paleoclimatologists Lonnie Thompson and Ellen Mosley-Thompson, who are other half and wife.Lonnie Thompson said the speed at which ice is disappearing has actually driven strategies to expand his ice core storage facilities at Ohio State University, which he began fundraising for last year. The remodelling will double the facilitys storage capability to more than 13,550 meters of ice cores.Some of the cores Thompson and his group have actually gathered are the only remaining ice from some glaciers.


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