Belukha / Russia

May 2018



Margit Schwikowski Coordinator, Theo Jenk, Reto Schild, Michael Sigl, Julika Stampfli (Paul Scherrer Institute), Martina Barandun (University of Fribourg), Sergei Kopytin, Andrei Obukhov (Rescue Service of the Altai Republic). Base Camp: Tatyana Papina, Stella Eyrikh (Institute for Water and Environmental Problems, SBRAS, Barnaul).

This drilling campaign is a joint project between the Institute for Water and Environmental Problems of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IWEP-RAS, Barnaul) and the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI, Villigen, Switzerland). It receives financial support from the Swiss National Science Foundation and the Swiss Polar Institute.


The Belukha Glacier is located in a basin between the two peaks of Belukha, the highest of the Altai Mountains (rising to 4,506 m). The Altai mountain chain is a remote area of north-western Central Asia, on the border between Kazakhstan, south-western Siberia, north-western China and Mongolia. This region is of particular interest for palaeoclimate research, due to the highly continental nature of its climate and its position on the boundary between the Siberian forests and the arid regions of Central Asia.

Ice cores have already been drilled out of the Belukha Glacier in 2001 and 2003, showing that it is certainly the most appropriate site for studying ice cores in the region. While the temperature of the ice was below -14°C, layers of freeze-back were seen in the upper part of the glacier related to a sharp increase in summer temperatures. There is therefore an urgent need to collect new ice cores.


Two ice cores were extracted: one measuring 160 m down to bedrock and one measuring 106 m, for which drilling had to be stopped because of a crevasse. The latter will be the heritage core.
One ice core will be analyzed (study of stable isotopes, main ions, traces of chemical elements, soot and organic tracers) in order to contribute data to the reference database. A second ice core will join the Ice Memory sanctuary.

Press release announcing mission
Updated on  April 4, 2023