The Glaciologist Jérôme Chappellaz in Hong Kong on Dec 4 2015 [fr]

As the COP21 is underway in Paris, the glaciologist Jérôme Chappellaz, director of research at the French National Centre for Scientific Research and the scientific advisor of the film “Ice and the sky”, was in Hong Kong to hold a seminar concerning the project SUBGLACOIR and to host animate a screening and discussion about climate change at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) on December 4, 2015.

Dr. Jérôme Chappellaz ( is director of research at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), head of the team ICE3 “Climat : passé, présent, projections” at the Laboratoire de Glaciologie et de Géophysique de l’Environnement (LGGE, Instute of Galciology and environmental geophysics) of Saint Martin d’Hères. Being the worthy successor of Claude Lorius and following his path at LGGE, he is the scientific advisor of the film “Ice and the sky”, directed by Luc Jacquet (

On December 4, 2015, Dr. Jérôme Chappellaz made a stopover in Hong Kong and held two events regarding climate change and studied the possibilities of cooperation between France and Hong Kong in this area, while flying to the Antarctic!
These two events were co-organized by the Department of Culture, Education & Science of the Consulate General of France in Hong Kong and Macau and the department “Earth System Science” (ESSC) of CUHK, with the support of the BNP Paribas Foundation. It is worth noting that Dr. Chappellaz also met the Hong Kong representatives of the BNP Paribas foundation on 3 December 2015.


On 4 December 2015, Dr. Chappellaz began with his seminar “Insights on the mid-Pleistocene climate transition: the concept and the design of a revolutionary probe called SUBGLACIOR” which around thirty students and teachers of ESSC attended.


After a history about the discoveries made in the Antarctic and their essential role in the understanding of climate and its variations, as well as the impact of human activity on these disruptions, Dr. Jérôme Chappellaz explained his recent research projects in detail, especially the one called “Subglacior”. The key points of the seminar are summarized below.

Apart from the technical and financial aspects of such a project, Dr. Chappellaz reminded the importance of interdisciplinary work for this kind of project as well as their international dimension.

After his presentation, Dr. Chappellaz opened the discussion with the attendees and answered their questions.

The presentation of Dr. Chappelaz

PowerPoint - 8.9 Mb
(PowerPoint - 8.9 Mb)

The discussions with the researchers of ESSC, which took place afterwards, showed some ways to co-operate between this department of CUHK and the research team of the LGGE.



At the end of the day, Dr. Chappellaz and Prof. Lin Lui, professor at the ESSC of CUHK (, attended the screening of the film “Ice and the Sky” and held a discussion about the film and climate change. It is worth noting that Prof. Lin Liu honored us with his participation in the discussion which was held after the screening of the film during French Film Festival on November 28, 2015. (





More than 70 people, including a lot of students, attended the screening and the discussion. During the discussion, the two scientific scholars answered many questions raised by the attendees, especially questions about the role of civil society and governments as well as the interactions between science and society.
In order to raise public awareness of global warming in an informative way, the short documentary animation “The secret of ices” ( about the film “Ice and the Sky”, for which Dr. Jérôme Chappellaz contributed as scientific advisor, was screened on December 5, 2015, during the Christmas fair of the French International School.

Mr. Eric Berti, Consul General of France in hong Kong and Macau and Mr.Christian Soulard, Headmaster of French International School of Hong Kong, before the screening of "Secret of ices"

Insights on the mid-Pleistocene climatic transition: the concept and the design of a revolutionary probe called SUBGLACIOR

Inspired by the name of the cartoon “The Sarcophagi of the Sixth Continent, Volume 1: The Universal Threat”, the mission SUBGLACIOR is a scientific mission aimed at setting up a revolutionary probe to drill ice. Firstly, this innovation could speed up scientific researches in the Arctic and Antarctic, and those dedicated to the glaciers on high mountains. Imagined and conceptualized by four French laboratories*, the probe SUBGLACIOR, which will be in use from 2016, will reduce the time to analyze the ices during drilling from 4-5 years to less than two months. More than twenty researchers are involved in this project which already required a budget up to around 3.2 million euros. This project is supported by “Agence Nationale de Recherche Française” (ANR), “ Fondation BNP Paribas”, the European Research Council (ERC) and CNRS.

The aim of such probe is to enable to analyze more efficiently and rapidly the archives of terrestrial climate retained in the ices deeply underneath the Antarctic. Understanding variations of the climate in the past would model better the influence of mankind on his environment and the impacts of global warming on terrestrial ecosystem.

In recent years, the most ancient ice would enable to trace back the climate of the last 800.000 years. However, due to a few still unknown reasons, Earth experienced a great variation of frequency of its cycle of glaciation, increasing from 40000 years to approximately 100000 years without direct relation with the phenomenon today known, as variation of Earth orbit for instance. Grasping changes in temperature of the atmosphere and variation of quantity of greenhouse gases (HO2, CO2, N2O, CH4…), in the atmosphere during this period of transition (mi-Pleistocene transition) would help to understand better and to model the climate system of tomorrow.

More technically speaking, the probe SUBGLACIOR is a 15 meter-long tube with 6 centimeter-long diameter. The innovative principle consists of its capacity to analyze in situ the composition of the air trapped in the ice. In fact, thanks to the laser spectrometer developed by the Laboratoire interdisciplinaire de physique de Grenoble, different fluids will be analyzed continuously so as to establish deuterium and methane content.

After facing and solving numerous technological challenges, particularly in order to avoid variations of temperature and pressure inside the probe during drilling, the preliminary version of the probe is now ready to launch its first full-scale tests.
The main difficulty of the study of polar ice is the fact that the thickest ice is not the most ancient one. In fact, age of ice in accordance with depth depends essentially on two factors: the rate of accumulation and the flow of heat escaping from the terrestrial surface. By analyzing in real time the composition of ice, the probe SUBGLACIOR would accelerate the drilling and boost the efficiency of drilling, as well as the possibilities to determine the influence of diverse gases and natural aerosols (Cl, Na, NH4) or gases of anthropogenic origin (SO4, NO3…) on variation of climate. According to the latest models, 40% of variation of temperature on terrestrial surface is caused by greenhouse gases. The rest is due to natural phenomenon, such as solar activity and reduction of albedo.

Thanks to its exceptional capacities, other prospects are opening up nowadays for using this probe in the sector of environmental monitoring. In fact, after yielding a few satisfactory results during the first deep-water trail, the probe SUBGLACIOR would be an interesting tool for physical and chemical studies of oceans. A French start-up called SUBOCEAN is developing this new tool.

For more information about the project SUBGLACIOR:

More information about the LGGE (Grenoble)

In more than 50 years, the LGGE has built its scientific reputation on studies of the climate and the composition of the atmosphere. Our studies of the past climate and environmental conditions rely to a large part on the analysis of snow and ice as archives of the past. But this laboratory has competitive know-how in many other domains, such as the study of the mechanical and physical properties of snow and ice, chemical exchanges at the snow-air interface or remote sensing over snow and ice. Our research combines analytical and technological developments with numerical approaches in diverse areas, from the atmosphere to ice flow and, more recently, to the oceans. The Arctic and Antarctic are privileged work areas, but our work extends to mountain regions (studies of glaciers in the Alps, the Andes and the Himalayas, atmospheric pollution in the Alps and the Himalayas- and the oceans (role of the oceans in the climate system, medium-term prediction of ocean circulation). These studies contribute to the understanding of important scientific problems which are often societal issues such as the greenhouse effect, climate variability, mass balance of the cryosphere and sea level, pollution on global and regional scales, or glacial risks.

At LGGE, more than 150 persons — scientists, university teachers, students, engineers, technicians — work together in the laboratory or the field on subjects of major societal interest.

Justin Monier, Scientific Officer in Hong Kong

publié le 30/12/2016

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