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November 30, 2021

by Università Ca ‘Foscari Venezia

The first ice core drilling campaign by Beyond Epica-Oldest Ice begins in the Antarctic at the Little Dome C site Years back that will provide invaluable information about the temperature and concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere of the past. This project represents an unprecedented effort in paleoclimatology.

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The project, which started in 2019, has a term of seven years and is funded by the European Commission with 11 million euros. It is coordinated by Carlo Barbante, director of the Institute of Polar Sciences of the National Research Council of Italy (Cnr-Isp) and professor at Ca ‘Foscari University in Venice. The project includes twelve European and non-European international research institutes and will benefit from synergies with the French Polar Institute and the activities of the Italian National Antarctic Program at the Franco-Italian Concordia station.

This campaign, which will last until January 2022, will be in Little Dome C, an area of ​​10 km2, which is 40 km from the Italian-French station Concordia on the East Antarctic plateau – one of the most extreme places on earth.

Glaciologists, engineers and technicians of the international team will attend a Working at an altitude of 3,233 meters above sea level, over 1,000 km from the coast, and experiencing average Antarctic summer temperatures of -35 ° C.

As soon as the installation of the camp in Little Dome C has been completed and the drilling site is fully operational, the drilling system is tested. The team will also complete the construction of a temporary storage cave in the snow to protect the first ice samples. The success of this campaign is critical to the outcome of the entire project. There will be two crucial moments in the history of climate science: first, the pilot hole will be drilled from which the ice core will be extracted; the second will be the extraction of the first ice sheets by the end of this campaign. The team hopes to achieve an average drilling capacity of 170 m per week.

“During our Epica (European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica), which we completed in 2008, we succeeded in extracting and analyzing an 800,000 year old ice core . Now we are trying to travel further back in time: Because if we want to gain a correct perspective on the world’s current experiences with climate change and develop suitable strategies to contain it, we have to look back even further – and that is what we are trying to do in the Antarctica with Beyond Epica, “says Carlo Barbante, who is participating in the campaign on site.

The climate and environmental history of our planet is archived in the ice: It can contain information from centuries and even hundreds of millennia about temperature developments and the Provide the composition of the atmosphere.

With this, the researchers can estimate the content of greenhouse gases such as methane and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of the past. Then they will be able to link these findings with the temperature development.

“We believe that this ice core will give us information about the climate of the past and the greenhouse gases that are going on end of the transition to the Middle Pleistocene (MPT), which occurred 900,000 to 1.2 million years ago, were in the atmosphere, ”concludes Barbante. “During this transition, the climatic periodicity between the Ice Ages changed from 41,000 to 100,000 years: The reason for this is the puzzle that we want to solve.”

The other scientists on site are Thomas Stocker, Remo Walther and Jakob Schwander from der University of Bern. The drills will be Philippe Possenti, Gregory Teste, Olivier Alemany and Romain Duphil from the University of Grenoble-Alpes and Matthias Hüther from the Alfred Wegener Institute. Logistics and telecommunications are managed by Michele Scalet, Saverio Panichi, Giacomo Bonanno from Enea and Calogero Monaco from the Genio Guastatori regiment.

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