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10,000 year-old ice preserved to show life before climate change

As part of an international project called Ice Memory, researchers have extracted and stored 10,000 year-old ice from the alps. Completely untouched by climate change, these samples are considered ancient natural artifacts.

Apparently, it’s not just seeds being stashed away and preserved in one of a growing number of Arctic ‘Doomsday Vaults.’

This month, a team of researchers ventured to Alagna Velsesia in Vercelli and scaled Monte Rosa, the second largest mountain in the Alps and western Europe. Upon arriving at a glacier 4,500 meters above ground level, the team began to extract ice.

Seems a long way to go right? Like travelling oceans in search of salt water.

On the contrary, the five day expedition was very necessary. Triumphantly returning to a Capanna Margherita – a 128-year-old research centre (not a mountain holiday resort) – the team brought back with them four perfectly preserved ice cores formed 10,000 years ago.

Credit: University of Venice

Completely undisturbed by humankind, these ice samples are a rare natural remnant of life before climate change. Since the mid-19th century, researchers estimate that the surrounding 15 mile glacier has lost 40% of its area due to global warming.

Considering our Carbon emissions are now at record highs, and are responsible for a 10% decline in Arctic ice every 10 years, time is very much of the essence to collect these ancient artifacts for study now.

‘If we lost archives such as this one, we would lose the memory of how humankind has altered the atmosphere,’ says Fabio Trincardi, director of environmental tech at the Italian National Research Council.

This same sentiment is shared by a cohort of European glaciologists who, in 2015, launched a mission called Ice Memory. Partnering with scientists and research groups around the globe, a comprehensive database is being formed based on the practical study of excavated ice cores.

Scattered in various research labs today, its hoped by 2022 that all ice cores will eventually be stored in a single facility located – you guessed it – in Antarctica. Between this and the seed vault in Spitsbergen, the area may yet end up getting its own post code.

In all seriousness, the organisation estimates that by the end of the century we’ll have no glaciers left at heights below 3,500 meters in the Alps, and 5,400 meters in the Andes. Barring a drastic cut back on emissions, that is.

Aside from the obvious stain that eventuality would leave on humanity’s conscience, it would also represent a huge loss of scientific evidence in studying the cause and effect of climate change.

So, there we have it, yet another entry to the endless archive of ways in which climate change is destroying the planet.

Let’s hope everything we’ve lost so far isn’t in vain.