Ice cores to reveal climate change data

By James Mathews - 10 Jan 2012 22:3:1 GMT
Ice cores to reveal climate change data

Glacier via Shutterstock

Four ice cores have been taken from a glacier on top of Mount Ortles which sits in North East Italy. They were taken in the name of research that has been conducted by researchers from Columbus, Ohio to try and gain an understanding of past climate and environmental changes in the region.

Two thirds of the cores were of sufficient quality to be properly analysed, although the other third showed melt water which can affect the records. This was already expected as it was thought that the mountain may have been too low to have been cold enough.

These are the first ice cores to have been taken from the eastern side of the alps. These will therefore help to outline more detail about climate change in this region.

The expedition leader was Paolo Gabielli and he said, "This glacier is already changing from the top down in a very irreversible way." He continued, "It is changing from a 'cold' glacier where the ice is stable to a 'temperate' glacier where the ice can degrade. The entire glacier may transition to a temperate state within the next decade or so."

Research that had already been previously conducted had shown that there was an increase in summer temperatures at high altitudes in the area. These temperatures were as much as 2 degrees celcius over the previous three decades. The melted third of the ice cores may still be able to be read with some extra work. It is hoped that if they can they will be able to take measurements that begin in the 1980's and then go back many hundreds of years or possibly even as much as a thousand years. This would most certainly help to build a much bigger and clearer picture about the environmental and climate changes that have taken place in the region.

The ice cores that have been taken are likely to give an indication to the climate over a 100 km radius when just looking at recent summers. However, ice cores from previous winters will help to build up an idea of an area as large as 1000km. It may also explain the transition between the Medieval warm period and the Little Ice Age which could provide some very exciting results indeed.

Based on weather patterns, ice in the cores that was formed during past summers will likely paint a picture of past climate in an area close to the mountain, perhaps only 10 to 100 kilometers (6.21 to 62.1 miles) away.

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Topics: Climate