Launched in 2019, with funding by the European Commission with €11 million and coordinated by the Institute of Polar Sciences of the National Research Council (ISP-CNR), Carlo Barbante, the Beyond EPICA (European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica) – Oldest Ice international research project aims to obtain, over seven years, data on the evolution of temperatures, the composition of the atmosphere and the carbon cycle, by going back in time €1.5 million years through analysing an ice core.
Twelve research centres are involved as partners, from ten European and non-European countries. For Italy, in addition to the CNR and the Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, there is the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable (ENEA), which is in charge together with the French Polar Institute (IPEV) of the logistics-related work module.
“The ice core drill produced consistent 4.5m-long ice cores and we drilled over 1,000 m of high-quality ice cores in 6 weeks,” said Matthias Hüther, chief driller from the German Alfred-Wegener-Institut. However, the project final goal is to reach a depth of about 2,700 meters, which represents the thickness of the ice sheet underneath Little Dome C (LDC), a 10-square-kilometer area located at 3,233 meters above sea level, 34 kilometres from the French-Italian Concordia station, one of the most extreme places on Earth.
Parallelly to the drilling activities, almost 1,367 m of ice core were processed at Little Dome C (LDC). “Thanks to these in-field analyses, we are able to match the Beyond EPICA ice core records to the previous EPICA ice core drilled at Dome C. The data obtained are important to provide a preliminary dating of the ice cores extracted so far and to investigate the preservation of the climate signal,” said Amaelle Landais, research director at the Laboratory of Climate and Environmental Sciences of the French National Centre for Scientific Research.
The Beyond EPICA ice cores were sent to the Mario Zucchelli station to reach Europe onboard icebreaker vessel Laura Bassi, equipped with two refrigerated containers which will ensure the best cold conditions, at -50°C, for the precious samples during the long journey across the hemispheres.
This successful third phase of the campaign will reveal increasingly precise information on the evolution of the temperature and the composition of the atmosphere through the analysis of ice cores, since the ice reveals the environmental history of our Planet that is useful to assess the temperatures and greenhouse concentrations of the past.