30th Nov 2021 – Press Release for the starting of the first ice core drilling campaign of Beyond EPICA-Oldest Ice

Antarctica: Beyond EPICA exploring the climate of the past

The first ice core drilling campaign of Beyond EPICA-Oldest Ice is starting at Little Dome C, in Antarctica. This international research project is funded by the European Commission with 11 million euros and it is coordinated by the Institute of Polar Sciences of the CNR (National Research Council of Italy). The project aims to obtain information on the evolution of the temperatures and on the composition of the atmosphere 1.5 million years ago, by analysing the ice cores that will be extracted from the deep ice in Antarctica. These data will be invaluable for predicting future climate trends and for implementing mitigation strategies

The first ice core drilling campaign of Beyond EPICA-Oldest Ice is starting in Antarctica at the Little Dome C site. The aim of the project is to go back to 1.5 million years in time, by sampling and analysing the deep ice, which will reveal invaluable information on temperature and on the concentration of greenhouse gases in the past atmosphere. This project represents an unprecedented effort in paleoclimatology.

The project, which started in 2019, will last 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 of Venice. The project involves twelve European and non-European international research institutes and will benefit from synergies with the French Polar Institute and the Italian National Antarctic Programme activities at the Italian-French Concordia Station. 

This campaign, which will last until January 2022, will be conducted at Little Dome C, an area of 10 km2, located 40 km from the Italian-French Concordia Station, on the east Antarctic plateau — one of the most extreme places on the Earth.

Glaciologists, engineers and technicians of the international team will work at an altitude of 3,233 metres above sea level, over 1,000 km away from the coast, and will experience average Antarctic summer temperatures of -35°C.

Once field camp installation is completed at Little Dome C, making the drilling site fully operational, the drilling system will be tested. While doing this, the team will also complete the construction of a temporary storage cave in the snow that will protect the first ice samples. The success of this campaign is crucial to the outcome of the entire project. There will be two decisive moments for the history of climate science: the first, will be drilling the pilot hole from which the ice core will be extracted; the second, will be the extraction of the first layers of ice by the end of this campaign. The team hopes to achieve an average coring rate of 170 m per week.

“During our previous EPICA (European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica) project, which ended in 2008, we managed to extract and analyse an 800,000-year-old ice core. Now we are trying to travel back further in time: because if we are to gain a correct perspective on what the world is currently experiencing with climate change, and adopt suitable mitigating strategies, we must look back even further — which is what we are trying to do in Antarctica with Beyond EPICA,” says Carlo Barbante, who is involved on site in the campaign.

The climate and the environmental history of our planet is archived in the ice: it can reveal information from centuries and even hundreds of millennia ago on the evolution of temperature and on the composition of the atmosphere.

Researchers will therefore be able to assess 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 evolution of temperature.

“We believe this ice core will give us information on the climate of the past and on the greenhouse gases that were in the atmosphere during the Mid-Pleistocene Transition (MPT), which happened between 900,000 and 1.2 million years ago,” concludes Barbante. “During this transition, climate periodicity between ice ages changed from 41,000 to 100,000 years: the reason why this happened is the mystery we hope to solve.”

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

To learn more about Beyond EPICA Oldest Ice Core: linktr.ee/BeyondEpica_OldestIce.      

Photos    

https://www.beyondepica.eu/en/gallery/

Video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ls_inIwtAZI 

30 November 2021

In brief

What: Start of an ice core drilling campaign for the European project Beyond EPICA-Oldest Ice

Further information: Carlo Barbante, Project Coordinator, CNR-ISP director, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, e-mail: barbante@unive.it, Chiara Venier, project manager of the Beyond EPICA-Oldest Ice project, CNR-ISP, e-mail: chiara.venier@cnr.it

20th Dec 2019 - Press Release for the final site selection of the Beyond EPICA project

High-resolution geophysical survey confirms the deep Beyond EPICA ice-core drilling site

In the context of the European Union project Beyond EPICA - Oldest Ice Core: 1.5 Myr of greenhouse gas – climate feedback (Beyond EPICA), experts from 12 institutions in ten European countries coordinated by Prof. Carlo Barbante from the Ca’ Foscari University of Venice and the Institute of Polar Sciences of the National Research Council of Italy (ISP-CNR) in Venice, have finally confirmed the site for future ice core drilling operations in East Antarctica. This final step follows the previous EU project, led by Prof. Olaf Eisen from the Alfred Wegner Institute (AWI) in Germany. The drill site is located at Little Dome C (LDC), an area of about 10 km2, 40 km away from Concordia Station at Dome C, the Italian-French base on the high Antarctic Plateau. Dome C is 1000 km from the coast, at an altitude of 3233 m above sea level, and is run by IPEV and the PNRA, the French and Italian polar agencies.

On 1st June 2019 the Beyond EPICA project started with the aim of drilling for and recovering ice from up to 1.5 Million years ago in Antarctica. The previous EPICA project recovered 800,000 years old ice. We want to go BEYOND that. “We hope that this core will give us information on the Antarctic climate and the greenhouse gases present during the Middle Pleistocene Transition (MPT), which occurred between 900,000 and 1.2 Million years ago”, says Carlo Barbante, coordinator of the project. “During this period the climatic periodicity transitioned from 41,000 to 100,000 years between ice ages. Why this change happened is the mystery we want to resolve.”

With this goal in mind, the LDC area was selected after an initial period of coordinated actions, including more than 4,000 km of airborne and ground-based Radar Echo Sounding (RES) survey and basal temperature assessment based on vertical velocity and temperature measurements. All measurements were interpreted within a temperature and age modelling framework. These actions were performed in the frame of the previous EU project, led by researchers from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and the Institut des Géosciences de l’Environnement (IGE)  Over the last weeks, researchers from an international team composed of scientists from AWI, University of Copenhagen (UCPH) and the University of Alabama (UA) have finally scanned the area of interest and a group of experts precisely selected the exact site for drilling operations during the 2020-21 field season. Here, the characteristics of the deeper layers, with ice of least 1.5 million years old should be preserved with a good temporal resolution.

“It is the first time that a site for deep drilling has been selected with such a high precision and effort. The new radar measurement showed more clearly than before, that the ice there is well stratified and most probably very old”, says Olaf Eisen (AWI).

The whole project Beyond EPICA – Oldest Ice Core has been funded with a 11 million € grant by the European Commission and will take 6 years in total to drill, collect and analyse the ice from this very deep hole, if everything goes to plan.

Contacts:

Prof. Carlo Barbante, Università Ca’Foscari Venezia (Dipartimento di Scienze Ambientali, Informatica e Statistica) & ISP-CNR (phone: +39 041 2348942 barbante@unive.it).

Prof. Dr. Olaf Eisen, Alfred Wegner Institute (phone: +49 471 4831-1969, email: Olaf.Eisen@awi.de)

4th June 2019 - Press Release for the start of the project

The Epic search for oldest ice in Antarctica is starting

On 1st June 2019 the European Beyond EPICA Oldest Ice Core project started with the aim of drilling for and recovering ice from up to 1.5 Million years ago in Antarctica. The previous EPICA project recovered ice from 800,000 years ago. We want to go BEYOND that. We hope that this core will give us information on the greenhouse gases present during the Middle Pleistocene Transition (MPT), which occurred between 900,000 and 1.2 Million years ago. During this period the climatic periodicity transitioned from 41,000 to 100,000 years between ice ages. Why this change happened is the mystery we want to resolve.

To do this, experts from 10 European Countries and 16 different Research Institutions have joined forces under the guidance of Carlo Barbante and his management team at the CNR and Ca’ Foscari University of Venice in Italy, funded by the European Horizon 2020-research programme.

The drilling site, at Little Dome C, was previously identified by an EU funded geophysical survey project, led by Olaf Eisen from the Alfred Wegner Institute in Germany. The drill site was presented during an EGU press conference in Vienna on 9th April 2019. Luckily it is only 40km from Concordia Station, the Italian-French base on the high Antarctic Plateau at Dome C, over 1000 km from the coast and at an altitude of 3233 m above sea level, run by IPEV and the PNRA, the French and Italian polar agencies. Here on a balmy summers day the temperatures reach a maximum of -25°C, whilst in the deep mid-winter they drop to under -80°C. It may seem absurd whilst sitting on 3 km of water, but Dome C is as dry as the Sahara Desert, so snow accumulates slowly, gradually trapping in the ice the precious air bubbles we hope to analyse to find the atmospheric composition of the deep past of our planet. Careful analysis of the isotopic ratios of this ancient ice will be our deep time thermometer.

In the words of Barbara Stenni of Ca’ Foscari University of Venice “we hope to study the climate of the past to improve our models of future climate change.”

The whole project will cost around 11 million € and will take 6 years in total to drill, collect and analyse the ice from this very deep hole if everything goes to plan.

For photos, graphics and videos: www.egu.eu/gamedia/2019/documents/

(EGU press Conference in Vienna, 9th April 2019: under PC2: Beyond EPICA: The quest for a 1.5 million year ice core)

9th April 2019 - BE-OI press conference at EGU 2019

Ideal location for drilling oldest ice core found

Beyond EPICA presented the decision where to drill for 1.5 million year old ice at:

EGU Press Conference
Tuesday, 9 April, 09:00
Beyond EPICA: The quest for a 1.5 Million year ice core

Press release, presentation, images and video material available here