A fragment of the Larsen C ice shelf filmed on a reconnaissance flight during NASA's Operation IceBridge


© Paolo Pellegrin / Magnum Photos

The planet's temperature is rising. Glaciers are melting faster and faster. Many species of animal will not survive. Coastal cities are sinking slowly. None of these phenomena seem to scare global citizens that much, perhaps because the consequences for our everyday life are still not very visible. We should ask ourselves if we will still have time to rectify things when they do become visible.
The melting glaciers, that seem to be happening in another world from ours, in reality do affect us closely and in many ways. Glaciers are frozen archives for scientists, packed with information. When they were formed, tens or hundreds of thousands of years ago, they swallowed up everything around them and preserved that up to the present day. Many researchers are using ice samples to reconstruct climate regimes of past eras or the microbial communities that inhabited our planet.
The progressive melting of glaciers means this information will be lost, but not only that. According to some studies, it may allow primordial viruses contained in the prehistoric ice to be released into the environment. Initial research shows that these viruses are quite different to the ones we commonly encounter and study. It is highly probable that our bodies are totally devoid of defences to deal with them. The effect of these viruses being released into the environment may therefore be unexpectedly devastating not only for polar ecosystems but also for our health.

Annachiara Tesoriere