Elmer/Ice News

Mapping the age of ice of Gauligletscher combining surface radionuclide contamination and ice flow modeling

jouvet2020In the 1950s and '60s, specific radionuclides were released into the atmosphere as a result of nuclear weapons testing. This radioactive fallout left its signature on the accumulated layers of glaciers worldwide, thus providing a tracer for ice particles traveling within the gravitational ice flow and being released into the ablation zone. For surface ice dating purposes, we analyze here the Plutonium and Uranium activity in more than 200 ice samples collected at the surface of Gauligletscher, Switzerland, and successfully identify the isochronal lines from 1960 and 1963. Hence this information is used to fine-tune an ice flow/mass balance model (Elmer/Ice), and to accurately map the age of the entire glacier ice (see picture). As an additional result, our results show that an airplane which crash-landed on the Gauligletscher in 1946 will likely soon be released from the ice close to the place where pieces have emerged in recent years, thus permitting the prognosis given in an earlier model to be revised considerably.

Read more: Jouvet G., S. Röllin, H. Sahli, J. Corcho, L. Gnägi, L. Compagno, D. Sidler, M. Schwikowski, A. Bauder and M. Funk, 2020. Mapping the age of ice of Gauligletscher combining surface radionuclide contamination and ice flow modeling, The Cryosphere, 14, 4233–4251, doi:10.5194/tc-14-4233-2020

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