Ice and Climate

Course content

The course focuses on ice sheets and their role in climate studies, especially on how to infer knowledge of their past evolution and 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 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 using data combined with models.

The course is based on lectures and computer experiments where the students will use programming tools (e.g. Python) for creating models of ice sheet evolution, ice sheet time scales and ice sheet temperatures. The course will cover the following subjects:

  • Ice sheet flow and evolution, with focus on the role of ice flow and climate on the extent, thickness, and internal stratigraphy.
  • 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.
  • Methods and data used in ice sheet and ice core studies

BSc Programme in Physics

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.


  • 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
  • Knowledge of ice sheet flow and evolution and the processes involved.
  • Knowledge of data and methods used for ice core studies.


  • Ability to critically read technical scientific papers and both implement and improve upon models and techniques described in such papers.
  • Ability to use numerical methods (in e.g. Python software) for ice core data analysis and for implementing various numerical models.

Lectures and exercises.

Teaching material: Teaching material will be announced at the Absalon course page. An example of relevant literature: K.M. Cuffey and W.S.B. Paterson: Physics of Glaciers

Physics and mathematics courses corresponding to first year of the physics B.Sc.

The course is identical to NFYA06016U Is og klima (geofys4).
It is not allowed to pass both courses.

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

30 minutes oral exam with 30 minutes preparation.

All aids allowed. Internal censorship, graded according to the 7-point grading scale.

Criteria for exam assessment

see learning outcome

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 24
  • Preparation
  • 142
  • Practical exercises
  • 24
  • Exam
  • 16
  • English
  • 206


Course number
7,5 ECTS
Programme level

1 block

Block 2
No limitation – unless you register in the late-registration period (BSc and MSc) or as a credit or single subject student.
Study Board of Physics, Chemistry and Nanoscience
Contracting department
  • The Niels Bohr Institute
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Science
Course Coordinator
  • Bo Møllesøe Vinther   (8-6c8073787e726f7c4a786c7338757f386e75)

Bo Møllesøe Vinther
Christine Schøtt Hvidberg

Saved on the 14-02-2024

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Courseinformation of students