Skip to main content

ICE MEMORY, preserving the precious heritage of ice

Creation of a vault containing non-polar ice cores in the Antarctic to study climate change

The Air Liquide Foundation is providing support to Grenoble Alps University Foundation's “ICE MEMORY” project: creation of a sanctuary for high-altitude glacier ice cores in Antarctica. The aims is to allow future generations of scientists to continue to analyze them. Ice memory’s international team plans to drill 20 glaciers over the next two decades, with the first boreholes in France, Bolivia and Russia.

Ice, an invaluable witness in measuring climate change

The ice from mountain glaciers is a treasure trove of information on past changes in climate and the environment, from temperature variations to greenhouse gas concentrations and pollutants, etc. Over the last few decades, non-polar ice core drilling has allowed scientists to study the recent climate in great detail1.

Non-polar ice core drilling has provided unique insight into the increase in pollution over the past century, illustrating regional variations and characterizing the origin of this pollution.

Glaciers threatened by global warming

Unfortunately, in certain regions of the world, we are observing the inexorable melting of glaciers, and these extremely fragile frozen archives are now at risk. Their quality is being affected by global warming, and eventually, they will simply disappear altogether.

Without this initiative, the scientific innovations of tomorrow will be useless, because the raw material – ice – will no longer be available or will be definitively altered.

An archive of non-polar ice

The aim of this project is, therefore, to create a sanctuary for non-polar ice core samples in Antarctica. Two or three ice cores will be extracted down to the bedrock from each glacier selected. One ice core will be analyzed with a view to establishing a reference database. Ice Memory’s initiators wish to preserve the other ice core(s) in a cave dug under the snow in Concordia, the Franco-Italian research station in Antarctica, a veritable natural freezer at -54°C. These ice cores will serve as a raw material to allow future generations to study climate change depending on the progress they make in scientific analyses.

Col du Dôme - Massif du Mont Blanc - France
4,350 m above sea level

Illimani - Andes - Bolivia
6,300 m above sea level

Elbrus - Caucasus - Russia
5,640 m above sea level

Temperature in the cave in Antarctica

at the Concordia Franco-Italian research station

The Air Liquide Foundation's contribution

The Air Liquide Foundation has allocated a €100,000 grant to pay some of the expenses of the drilling mission in Bolivia in 2017 & in Russia 2018, to buy analysis equipment of the reference ice core samples, as well as for the cost of acquiring containers for the storage cave in Antarctica.

1 The ice cylinders obtained by drilling into a glacier have different layers that contain information about the past climate.

Ice Memory on Twitter

View feed


  • Project initiator: Fondation Université Grenoble Alpes
  • Location: Alps (France and Italy), the Andes (Bolivia) and Caucasus (Russia)
  • Years of support: 2016 & 2018
  • Air Liquide sponsor: Susanne Adolphi, Air Liquide Research & Technology Center, Frankfurt