Ice core aquisition and analysis, Cambridge, UK

Lat. 52°12'44"N, Long. 0°4'50"E

State-of-the-art capability

BAS provides the UK’s only capability to recover and analyse ice cores (up to 1000 m).  We provide ice core drills for deployment by research teams around the world, and operate state-of-the-art laboratories in Cambridge to provide a wide range of climatologically and environmentally-relevant chemical, gas and stable isotope analyses.


Ice cores from Antarctica, the Arctic and mi-latitude locations are drilled, processed and analysed by BAS scientists and engineers. Laboratory facilities in Cambridge allow the analysis and interpretation of ice cores dating from hundreds to hundreds of thousands of years old. The current facilities allow ice to be stored, processed, and analysed, using a number of analytical chemistry, isotopic and gas extraction techniques to provide information from the past to help to predict the future.

Ice chemistry laboratories

The interpretation of ice core records including climate and atmospheric modelling studies, aimed both at improving ice core proxies, and understanding the couplings and interactions between different parts of the earth-system.

A bespoke Continuous Flow Analysis (CFA) method coupled to a suite of instruments and detectors including:

  • Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS)
    • Elemental chemistry
  • Fast Ion Chromatography (FIC)
    • Major ion chemistry
  • Fluorescence detectors
    • Hydrogen peroxide, ammonium, calcium, nitrate
  • Gas analysers (Picarro and Zara)
    • Continuous methane and carbon monoxide

Chart, histogram

Ice Core Gas Lab

Specialist ice core facility to measure concentration and isotopic composition of greenhouse gases

ANTARCTIC BLOG: Working on the Polar Plateau

7 February, 2017 by Markus Frey

Ice core drilling is a large complex operation to firstly get the equipment out into the field, assemble it, drill intact columns of ice and then process the collected ice for analysis. Markus Frey explains.

Drilling of oldest ice on Earth completed

18 February, 2022

The first ice core drilling campaign of Beyond Epica-Oldest Ice has been successfully completed at the remote Little Dome C site in Antarctica – one of the most extreme places …

Mission to drill Antarctica’s oldest ice

30 November, 2021

The first campaign to drill Antarctica’s oldest ice starts this month (November). Beyond EPICA-Oldest Ice aims to drill an ice core to collect a record of past climate spanning 1.5 million years

Prestigious award for BAS early career scientist

6 November, 2018

Congratulations to Dr Emilie Capron who has been awarded the prestigious Early Career Scientist Award of the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG). Dr Capron is a palaeoclimatologist at British …

PRESS RELEASE: West Antarctica snow accumulation

4 November, 2015

West Antarctic coastal snow accumulation rose 30 percent during 20th century Annual snow accumulation on West Antarctica’s coastal ice sheet increased dramatically during the 20th century, according to a new …

NEWS STORY: Polar ice cores reveal volcanic eruptions

8 July, 2015

Polar ice cores reveal volcanic eruptions that changed human history Researchers find new evidence that large eruptions were responsible for cold temperature extremes recorded since early Roman times A freshly …

NEWS STORY: Changes in winds in south

12 May, 2014

Ocean winds keep Australia dry and Antarctica cold New research explains why Antarctica is not warming as much as other continents, and why southern Australia is recording more droughts. Analysis …

NEWS STORY: Unlocking clues to past climate

1 May, 2014

Earth’s last warm phase exposed Analysis of data collected from ice cores and marine sediment cores in both polar regions has given scientists a clearer picture of how the Earth’s …

PRESS RELEASE: Warmer spells detected in ice cores

18 November, 2009

Mysteriously warm times in Antarctica A new study of Antarctica’s past climate reveals that temperatures during the warm periods between ice ages (interglacials) may have been higher than previously thought. …


British Antarctic Survey has an ongoing science & art collaboration with Royal College of Art PhD candidate Wayne Binitie. Wayne has visited BAS a number of times to develop his …

Ice Floor Sci-Art Installation

Ice Floor, is an immersive exhibition commissioned by engineering consultants Arup. UK born artist Wayne Binitie created the installation.

Polar Zero – Ice Stories

Polar Zero forms a major part of British Antarctic Survey’s (BAS) multi-media engagement plan for COP 26.  Ice Stories draws on personal anecdotes, memories and oral testimonies from the national …

Antarctic Climate over the last millennia

The Antarctic Peninsula and West Antarctica have warmed dramatically in recent decades, with some climate records indicating that these are among the most rapidly warming regions on Earth. The Antarctic …

Beyond Epica

A decade ago, the European EPICA project completed drilling a deep ice core at Dome C, revealing the close link between climate and atmospheric greenhouse gases over the past 800,000 …


The ice sheets of Antarctica can be several kilometres thick, and contain precious information about the past climate. However, the bottoms of the ice sheets are melting, erasing this information. …


The NERC funded SIWHA_CO2 project “Sea Ice and Westerly winds during the Holocene in coastal Antarctica, to better constrain oceanic CO2 uptake” will be a breakthrough in our understanding of how …


The Sub-Antarctic – ice coring expedition (SubICE), part of the international Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition (ACE), successfully drilled several shallow ice cores, from five of the remote and globally significant sub-Antarctic …