Scientists at the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center will study past climatic and environmental conditions in the European Alps

May 5, 2015
Tent on a mountain glacier with footprints in the snow

A new project, to be conducted at the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center, has been funded by the Geography and Spatial Science program of the National Science Foundation to study atmospheric warming and environmental changes from high-altitude ice cores. PI Paolo Gabrielli and co-PI Lonnie Thompson have received $ 239,000 to analyze and study three ice cores retrieved from the ice field atop Mt. Ortles, the highest mountain in South Tyrol (Italy) to reveal records of at least four centuries of climatic and environmental history. These ice cores, which were extracted in 2011 from one of the most rapidly warming and environmentally impacted areas in the world, offer a unique opportunity to investigate the interactions of strong regional environmental variations and wider-ranging global climatic patterns.

The project will provide new perspectives about the synergies between atmospheric pollution and climate change, especially at higher elevations where rapid glacial melting often occurs. The insights from this project will advance basic understanding about relationships between the impacts of human-induced atmospheric pollution on climate as well as factors that may lead to both the amplification of atmospheric warming and the suppression of atmospheric temperatures. Project results will help guide policy makers, governmental agencies, and resource administrators in assessing appropriate courses of action. This project also will strengthen international research collaborations among U.S. and European scientists and institutions.