Ice Core Glaciology

Course content

The course focuses on the interpretation of ice core records, especially how to extract information on the climate of the past from ice cores drilled on a dynamic ice sheet. The course aims at providing the tools for understanding the ice core data, i.e. how to create time scales for the ice cores and how to model the evolution of ice sheets in response to climate change. There will be a special focus on the interpretation of Greenland water stable isotope records and borehole temperature records, and how to extract past temperature conditions and the ice sheet evolution from these records.

The course is based on lectures and computer experiments where the students will use MATLAB for creating models of ice sheet evolution, ice sheet time scales and ice sheet temperatures. The course will cover the following subjects:

  • Ice core time scales based on steady-state flow models.
  • Stable water isotopes and their climatic interpretation, Rayleigh modeling of isotopic fractionation.
  • Non-steady state ice flow modeling, taking into account changes in precipitation and ice sheet evolution.
  • Densification of snow to ice.
  • Temperatures in ice sheets, the roles of advective and diffusive processes.

MSc Programme in Physics

MSc Programme in Environmental Science


Learning outcome


  • The ability to make simple ice sheet flow models.
  • The ability to create modeled steady-state and non-steady state ice core time scales
  • The ability to model and interpret temperature profiles in ice sheets.
  • The ability to make simple models of stable isotopes in the water cycle and interpret ice core stable isotope profiles.
  • The ability to correct detailed ice core stable isotope profiles for the diffusion observed in the snow and firn.


  • Knowledge of the climatic evolution during the past glacial and present inter glacial.
  • An understanding of the atmospheric fractionation processes and firn diffusive processes responsible for the climatic signals in ice core stable isotope profiles.
  • An understanding of densification process involved in the compaction of snow to ice.
  • Knowledge of the advective and diffusive processes involved ice sheet temperatures


  • Ability to critically read technical scientific papers and both implement and improve upon models and techniques described in such papers.
  • Ability to use the MATLAB software for ice core data analysis and for implementing various numerical models.

Lectures and excercises.

Lecture notes and selected research papers

Basic knowledge on physics or geoscience. Mathematics skills corresponding to physics B.Sc. students.

Academic qualifications equivalent to a BSc degree is recommended.

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment, 48 hours
48 hours take-home-project.
All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Several internal examiners
Criteria for exam assessment

see learning outcome

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 24
  • Practical exercises
  • 24
  • Course Preparation
  • 16
  • Exam
  • 16
  • Preparation
  • 126
  • English
  • 206