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The Temperature of Energy and Climate Research

The Centre for Ice and Climate is a world leader in the drilling of ice cores through the three-kilometre thick Greenland ice cap. Based at the University of Copenhagen, the centre is at the cutting edge of climate research. By analysing the ice cores, researchers get detailed information about the climate of the past and an understanding of the processes that affect the climate of the future.

NEEM ice core drilling project. Photograph: Sepp Kipfstuhl
NEEM ice core drilling project. Photograph: Sepp Kipfstuhl.

The centre of excellence was established back in 2007 and initially given a five year grant to study the Greenland ice cores. Now thanks to additional funding of 55 million kroner (11 million dollars) from the Danish National Research Foundation, the centre can now carry on for an additional five years up until 2017.

Professor of ice physics Dorthe Dahl-Jensen is the leader of the centre. (In 2010 the Dane was knighted for her ground-breaking research) While the research and the scientific staff are very international; approximately half of the centre’s fifty staff comes from abroad. With the additional funding, there will be even more opportunities for young international researchers (PhD students and postdoctoral) from around the world to perform state-of-the-art research.

The centre is the continuation of a strong Danish tradition for ice core drilling and analysis that goes back to the 1950’s. Danish scientist Willi Dansgaard was the first to realize that oxygen isotopes measured from Greenland ice cores can tell about past climate.

The current major research project is the NEEM ice core drilling project in the north western part of Greenland. Here researchers are drilling ice cores up through the thick ice cap. Using newly developed measuring equipment, they can analyse the ice cores while in the field. Getting detailed information about the climate of the past, back to around 140,000 years ago, when the Earth had a warm period which was naturally a few degrees warmer than now.

The data can then be combined with climate models, allowing the scientists at the centre to understand the mechanisms that have an impact on the climate of the future and provide a basis to better predict future global climate change.