Arctic glaciers losing "memories" of climate history due to global warming: study

  • World
  • Wednesday, 14 Feb 2024

ROME, Feb. 13 (Xinhua) -- Arctic glaciers are "losing their memories" of climate history due to global warming, an international study coordinated by Italy's National Research Council (CNR) has revealed.

The study, published in the scientific journal The Cryosphere, shows that climate change not only impacts the total area of glaciers, but also the information they would naturally hold about their past and that of the planet.

CNR said: "Ice melting caused by global warming is rapidly deteriorating the climate signal contained in Svalbard Island glaciers. Also losing their memories are the glaciers of the Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic Circle."

The research, conducted over a timespan from 2012 to 2019, was led by scientists from the Institute of Polar Sciences (ISP) of CNR and the Ca' Foscari University of Venice.

Researchers studied the evolution of the Holtedahlfonna glacier, one of the highest in the Svalbard archipelago. They found that the climate signal -- which was visible in 2012 -- had completely disappeared by 2019.

"The Svalbard archipelago is particularly sensitive to climate change because of the relatively low altitude of its main ice sheets," said Carlo Barbante, director of CNR-ISP and professor at Ca' Foscari University.

The geographical location emphasizes the phenomenon of Arctic amplification, Barbante said, which means that temperatures in the Arctic region are increasing more rapidly than the global average.

"We need to think of ice sheets as pages of an ancient manuscript that scientists are able to interpret, CNR-ISP researcher Andrea Spolaor said. "Even if evidence of atmospheric warming is still preserved in the ice, the seasonal climate signal has been lost."

This means that glaciers at these altitudes are -- with the current rate of global warming -- "at risk of losing the climate information recorded within them, compromising the reconstruction of climate change faced by the Earth over time," he said.

The researchers emphasized the urgent need to fight the ongoing ice melting process to preserve glacier archives and related climate information.

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