The international Ice Memory project , recognized and supported by the UNESCO National Commissions of Italy and France, aims to collect ice cores from the most significant mountain glaciers in the world currently at risk of disappearing due to global warming. The mountain areas of our planet are in fact particularly sensitive to climate change and, at the current rate, scientists predict the total disappearance of most of the glaciers in the Alps below 3,600 meters’ elevation by 2100.
The study of ice cores allows us to better understand our climate and environment, provides us with fundamental data on the global physical context, and gives us important information on the need to monitor and mitigate the consequences of climate change. In fact, every layer of ice contains information on the climatic and environmental conditions at the time the snow settled, allowing us to study both atmospheric processes and their consequences.
So, in addition to the well-known impact in terms of water resources, the environment, and alpine ecosystems, the melting of a glacier involves the loss of valuable information on the climate and environment of the past. A past spanning centuries or millennia, depending on the glacier.
The history of our Alps, our mountains, and our people is held in the ice, as if its crystals were the pages of a unique ancient manuscript preserved in a frozen library.
The Ice Memory project was launched to prevent the loss of a significant amount of valuable information that is critical for the study of climate change.
The drilled samples will be transferred to Antarctica, the coldest place on the planet. There, at the Italian-French base of Concordia, located in the center of the Antarctic plateau, at more than 3,200 meters’ elevation, they will be preserved as in a sanctuary, in what is the most reliable (and natural!) freezer in the world, with its average annual temperature of -54.5°C. A project that is a true mission and, now, a real race against time.
The project is led in Italy by the Institute of Polar Sciences of the National Research Council and Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, together with the National Research Project in Antarctica (PNRA). At the international level, it involves the Université Grenoble Alpes (UGA) Foundation in France, the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), the French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development (IRD), the French Polar Institute (IPEV), and the Swiss research center Paul Scherrer Institute.