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What is the importance of checking polar circles? -We spoke to Marco Tedesco

What is the importance of checking polar circles?  -We spoke to Marco Tedesco

One of the main research topics of climate change is the melting of ice: polar ice caps, glaciers, and snow-covered areas. What can we learn from changes in polar ice? How afraid are we of melting? We met the famous researcher of Italian origin at Columbia University in New York at Brain Bar.

When you see Marco Tedesco, you initially associate him not with a scientist, but with an obsessed extreme athlete. He shows the ice fields of Greenland and Antarctica in his own photographs, and himself suspended in ice caves and lying on the edge of a huge chasm, while samples are taken and analyzed. Sitting in the press room after his performance, his arms studded with snowflake tattoos immediately stood out.

There are a lot of questions about climate change and the disappearance of ice these days. Which of these do you think is most important?

In my research, I want to understand how different processes on the planet affect each other and the melting of ice. I wonder if the rivers flow faster or if the snow disappears sooner.

However, if we look a little further, it is also important to me how I can help future generations, what tools we can put in their hands, and how we can teach them. This is what intergenerational climate justice is about. So, if I had infinite time and infinite money, I would spend half of it, which is also infinite, on this, and the other half on what I’m still doing in addition to my research: I will help underserved minorities, Latinos, and African Americans living in the United States understand What they have to face in terms of climate change better.

Photo: Brian Barr

In your presentation, you said that our weather will soon be similar to what it was a thousand years ago, when the climate was warmer and the ice-free lands of Greenland were home to Viking colonies. Why is it so important to research what it will be like when we already know it will be this way?

Good question, by the way, I would add that after a slight warming, another cooling came, and the settlements founded by Eric the Red quickly faded away. They disappeared without a trace, so we find no descendants of the Vikings in Greenland at all, only Inuit who came from Canada even earlier.

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But let’s return to the question: What is happening differently now than it was before is the speed of change. Everything happened much more slowly, and there was time to adjust. Moreover, at the time, such a large percentage of the population did not live along the coasts, so the large rise in water levels did not have a widespread impact. Today, a third of humanity lives along the coasts! We cannot ignore the fact that there was no human factor in climate change then, and now we are responsible for it. It is debatable how widespread it is, but we undoubtedly play a role in it.

There was a surprising part in your book. Camel in the Arctic…

Yes, we have found such remains. There are certainly others. Not only camels, but also other living beings. The story of the camel remains found in the Arctic is not really about the camels themselves, but about the realization that we don’t know everything, and that even what we think we know can be questioned. If camels once lived there, there must have been other animals from warmer climates. New species are currently being created, for example, it can be seen that polar bears and black bears are already interbreeding with each other.

Very interesting discoveries are hidden in ice holes drilled from the depths, which Arctic research brings to the surface. Forgotten volcanic eruptions, catastrophes and extinction events. What else do these layers tell us?

Such an ice hole can be considered a memory of our planet. Ash resulting from volcanic eruptions colors the ice, freezes in it and forms layers. These layers can be well used to determine the age of the ice. The craters show many events from the past that we did not know before, as we cannot know them from anywhere else.

The deeper we go, the more interesting the layers become. There are samples from ice holes in Antarctica dating back 800 thousand years. No amount of rocks or annual rings can take you back that far in time. With every training we can see something new. And if we lose ice, we can also say goodbye to this huge memory, because according to our current knowledge, it does not exist anywhere else, except in polar ice.

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Photo: Zofia Sabi

Do you agree that ice fields are actually deserts?

Antarctica is a true desert by all definitions. It receives only 3 centimeters of rain annually, making it similar to a desert. This amount of rain also explains why the ice there is so old. It has taken a long time for the continent to fatten 10 kilometers of ice from 3 centimeters of snow per year. Moreover, think about it, only 9 centimeters of ice is formed from the pressure of about 1 meter of snow.

Greenland is not a desert, it is a very rainy area. In some places, 2-3 meters of snow falls per year. It becomes thicker in the central part of the island, and does not melt there as it does on the edges.

Thinking about it, these ice fields could behave completely differently.

They are very different in terms of their structure and other properties. The ice of Antarctica and Greenland is similar to the pine and oak tree. They are both trees, but their leaves, growth and appearance show significant differences.

truly? This seems like a very big difference. Glaciers, ice break-up, melting, and crumbling all look the same in pictures.

The physical reality of the ice is the same, but in Greenland warm air plays a large role in the melting, and in Antarctica the properties of the ocean and continent beneath the ice play a role. So they both dissolve, but for different reasons.

Accompanied by a polar explorer

Researchers have discovered special creatures deep in Antarctica’s ice. Could this be similar to extraterrestrial life?

definitely yes. Many people search this living world because it is very ancient, very pure and very interesting. For example, these are the little bears who are now almost scientific stars. You freeze them, you boil them, you set them on fire, you send them into space, and they don’t die because they use solar energy and some chemical reactions to live, not oxygen. If there is life outside Earth, it could be similar on icy planets.

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But the ancestors of these life forms are the same as ours. There is no evidence that they came from outside Earth.

Should we be afraid of what the ice hides?

I think we have something to fear, yes. Ice is like a huge beast that is tamed until it is disturbed. If we disturb her, anything can happen. But instead of fear, we can be happy that there is something to discover, something to learn from the ice: what happened in the past, and how we can change things for the better. It has an effect on us, even though it is far away from us here, in central Europe, just as the sun has an effect, despite its distance.

Photo: Brian Barr

During your search, were you out on the ice in the long dark of winter? Is there anything that can only be checked afterward?

I’ve experienced cold North American winters many times, but I’ve never been to Greenland or Antarctica on a winter night before. One of the characteristics of Antarctica is that people lock themselves in their stations at this time. By the way, most researchers do not come in the summer, but in the spring, before the thaw, because at this time it is no longer so cold, but the condition of the ice and the amount of snowfall can be checked well. There is no liquid water yet, and snowmobiles that are not on the water can be used just fine. It is also safe to walk outside before it melts. But winter is really trying. We usually live in a tent, which is very difficult there in winter. But I also want to see the polar night and the northern lights, and I plan to travel there in the winter as well.

What do you like most about visiting the Glacier Region?

genuinely? The encounter with my inner world. Ice is a very special landscape that can arouse special feelings in a person. Magical, powerful, yet fragile. It is incomprehensibly large and unrecognizable, but in the meantime it is undergoing tremendous changes because of us. My inner thoughts can fully communicate with the nature around me. This is my real home.

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