In 2013, a joint venture of the Climate Change Institute, at the University of Maine, and the Initiative for the Science of the Human Past, at Harvard University, retrieved a 73-meter (240ft) ice core from Colle Gnifetti in the Swiss Alps. Analysis of the ice core, at the Climate Change Institute, is producing invaluable new data about climate change and human-climate interactions from the last ca. 2,000 years. Concurrently, Harvard historians are combing pre-industrial written records to create a new geo-database of climate events, which complements the scientific data.
A 7-person team from the Climate Change Institute, the Institut für Umweltphysik, University of Heidelberg (Germany) and the Physics Institute, University of Bern (Switzerland), recovered the ice core over the course of one week at the Colle Gnifetti (CG) glacier saddle of the Monte Rosa Massif (4450 m.a.s.l.). It will be analyzed using a host of technologies not available when previous CG cores were drilled and featuring a path-breaking collaboration of humanists and scientists.
To this end the University of Maine and Harvard University will contribute ultra-high-resolution measurements of dust and other impurities using state-of-the-art laser based technology developed in the Climate Change Institute’s W. M. Keck Laser Ice Facility at the Climate Change Institute and a new historical geodatabase of the climate of pre-modern Europe from written sources, collected and analyzed at Harvard.
The resulting records will allow the first detailed, ice core-based assessment of human-climate interactions during the last two millennia. The new technology is minimally destructive and will allow the permanent preservation of the new ice core record. The project is supported by a grant from the Arcadia Foundation.
The Climate Change Institute at the University of Maine chronicled and documented the ice-core retrieval operations from the Swiss Alps on this page.
On Nov. 11, 2015, The CCI-SoHP team presented preliminary results at a signature event at Harvard University.
Evaluation of this unique archive will also involve researchers from Alfred-Wegener-Institute, Bremerhaven (Germany) and the Department of Geosciences, University of Fribourg (Switzerland), and the University of Nottingham, (U.K.).
Photos by Nicole Spaulding
Dr. Nicole Spaulding describes how laser ablation extracts ancient
ice particles for mass spectrometry of chemical signals of
climate change from the SoHP Colle Gnifetti Historical Ice Core
With support from: