Understanding past environments helps us predict future changes

Mountain glaciers hold the memory of our climate and our environment, thus helping to predict future environmental changes. However, those glaciers almost everywhere around the globe are retreating unrelentingly due to global warming.

This scientific heritage is so invaluable because it represents the only direct natural records we have of variations in atmospheric composition. Unfortunately, it is doomed to simply disappear. A vital contribution to environmental and climate science, and crucial to humanity’s future, ice sciences will soon run out of high-quality raw material collected from high mountain regions.

A scientific and human adventure of global importance

Our intention is to donate ice samples from the more fragile glaciers to the scientific community of the decades and centuries to come, when these glaciers will have disappeared or lost their data quality.

Launched and run by a French-Italian team, backed by the Université Grenoble Alpes Foundation and scientific partners, the aim of this project is to unite glaciologists in the main countries concerned. The plan is therefore to drill dozens of ice cores to be analysed and stored in a snow cave in Antarctica. The High Antarctic Plateau, where temperatures below -50°C prevail, is indeed the most reliable – and natural – freezer in the world.

The samples, stored near the French-Italian Concordia station, will be the property of humanity, with sustainable international governance ensuring their preservation as well as their exceptional and appropriate use.

It is the scientific responsibility of our generation, today’s witnesses to global warming and high-mountain glacier damage, to preserve the ice for the generations that follow us, as well as to further develop knowledge in the centuries to come. Before it is forever lost from the surface of our planet.

This heritage project is designed primarily with a global approach. In fact, our team has already built momentum within the international glaciology community (France, Italy, Switzerland, the United States, China, Brazil, Russia, etc.) in order to initiate optimised joint drilling operations to build an archive of ice cores from the world’s major glaciated mountains. The first drilling operations launched by the French-Italian team therefore also involve scientists and engineers from the United States, Russia, Bolivia and Brazil. The international community of researchers working in ice core sciences (24 countries grouped under the IPICS consortium) recognises the importance of the project and lends its full support. Last but not least, UNESCO, through its International Hydrology Programme, is also involved in the project.