Ice Dynamics and Palaeoclimate team

Our ambition

A priority for this team is to develop a deeper understanding of climate change and the response of the ice sheets so that we can improve our ability to explain the risk of future Antarctic and Greenland ice sheet loss and its impact on sea level.

Ice cores being stored at the drilling site on Berkner Island, Antarctica
Ice cores being stored at the drilling site on Berkner Island, Antarctica

By investigating the interplay between ice dynamics and the climate we aim to predict the future of the polar ice sheets. Observation and modelling of the mass balance of the ice sheets in response to present climate change is critical to our understanding of future change. By applying our expertise in the fields of ice core research we are enhancing knowledge of past climate and the links between the climate and the atmosphere. The team undertakes fundamental research that underpins several of the Antarctic grand challenges: the stability of the WAIS remains a fundamental unknown for predicting future sea level rise; the stability of the Ronne-Filchner ice shelf and the glaciers feeding into the Weddell Sea is poorly understood. By combining this ice core research with studies of ice sheet flow and stability, and by working in partnership with the international glaciological community we can contribute to the global effort to understand climate change – one of the greatest challenges facing society today.

Team priorities


  • Investigate the current mass balance and glacier response to climate change. To mount research expeditions to Pine Island and Thwaites glacial basins, which are both known to have thinned in recent decades, to understand the drivers of the current change in mass balance
  • Sea level rise and the ice sheet stability.   To determine vulnerability to future warming and the potential future sea level rise by analysis and comparison of past ice loss from the West Antarctic Ice and Greenland ice sheets during and after the Last Interglacial around 125,000 years ago
  • Antarctica in a warmer world. To work in partnership with colleagues from the UK university sector and the German Alfred Wegener Institute create realistic projections of the amount of sea-level rise likely to be generated from the Filchner Ice Shelf and its tributary ice streams. Projections will be made, for the middle of this century, of the amount of global sea-level rise from this sector
  • Identifying changes in the Earth’s climate system by acquiring and analysing the world’s oldest ice. To work in partnership with the international glaciological community, to prepare for a major new effort to obtain an ice core containing a 1.5 Million year long record of global climate and atmospheric composition

 Technology, innovation and training

Drilling shot holes for seismic surveys using a hot water drill on the Rutford Ice Stream, Antarctica


  • Deploy a mixture of remote sensing, ice sheet and climate modelling, as well as traditional glaciological field work techniques using radar, seismics, GPS survey and ice cores to understand the dynamics and mass balance of the polar ice sheets
  • Using our key skills in radar, seismics and rapid access ice drilling, take a lead in the international search for a site likely to produce world’s longest ice core climate record
  • Develop new innovations in ice core technology and analytical techniques to recover centennial to millennial scale records of climate change from glaciated regions
  • Through PhD programmes and grant-funded post-doctoral research positions, train the next generation of glaciologists and ice core scientists.

 Influencing and leading international programmes

Stakeholder engagement

  • Produce policy briefings and presentations for UK Government departments including the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS)
  • Produce science updates and briefings on the impact and relevance of our research for our funders, including NERC (Natural Environment Research Council)
  • Support the Antarctic Treaty system by provision of research and expert advice on environmental change via the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office Polar Regions Department

Public engagement in research

  • Work with the BAS Communications Team to explain our science and its relevance for environmental stewardship to a wide range of public audiences.
  • Collaborate with Cambridge University Institute for Sustainable Leadership to inform senior business leaders from a wide range of industries about climate change
  • Provide visitors to BAS with the chance to experience climate research at first hand with visits to the ice core laboratories and cold room, guided by experienced scientists
  • Maintain displays of climate research at the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum and seek further similar publicly accessible displays



Robert Arthern

Ice Sheet Modelling


Alex Brisbourne

Glacier Geophysicist


Emilie Capron

BAS Honorary Researcher


Carlos Martin Garcia

Ice Stream Modelling


Robert Mulvaney

Science Programme Coordinator


Hamish Pritchard

Glacial Processes Satellite


Julius Rix

Ice Core Drilling Engineer


Louise Sime

Palaeoclimate Modeller


Andy Smith

Science Leader


Liz Thomas



Rosie Williams

Numerical Modeller for L Sheet


Rachael Rhodes

BAS Honorary Researcher


Oliver Marsh

Lifetime of Halley Glaciologist


Sofia-Katerina Kufner

Glacier Geophysicist


Amy King

Post Doctoral Researcher


Thomas Bauska

Royal Society University Research Fellow


Alexander Bradley

ICE/Ocean Modeller

SubICE – Sub-Antarctic Ice Coring Expedition

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 …

Seismic investigation of a subglacial lake

Field Team includes: Alex Brisbourne (BAS), Andrés Rivera (CECs), Rodrigo Zamora (CECs), Field Guide (BAS). Antarctic subglacial lakes contain unique records of ice sheet history and microbial life; they may …

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 …


understanding whats beneath the ice, opens new opportunities for detailed modelling of the past and future evolution of the Antarctic ice sheets

Bedmap Himalayas

Bedmap Himalayas is an ongoing BAS core-funded and grant-funded programme. It aims to measure how much water much is stored as glacier ice in High Mountain Asia. In warm weather, …

Past Westerly Winds

The behaviour of the westerly wind belt (see Figure 1a) over the Southern Ocean during cold glacial periods has been debated for many years. These winds matter because explanations of …

Weddell Sea ice sheet and climate

In the south of the Weddell Sea lies the Ronne and Filchner Ice Shelves. During the coldest part of the last glacial period about 25,000 years ago, the ice in …

RAID: Rapid Access Isotope Drill

Ice cores take a long time to collect. The 3.4 km- ice core drilled at Dome Concordia (Antarctica) took 5 years to collect and encloses the oldest ice drilled so …

Ocean-driven ice-shelf thinning in Antarctica

By exploiting advances in ice sheet modelling, and new Antarctic-wide datasets, this project aims to predict how far and how fast the observed ocean-driven thinning of floating ice shelves will …

Ice Sheet Modelling

The research of the ice sheet modelling group focuses on integrating observational data with dynamical models that describe how the ice flows in order to improve our representation of how …

Climate and Ice during the Last Interglacial

During the Last Interglacial (129-116 thousand years ago, ka) CO2 and global temperature were both higher than they were before human industrialisation. By examining Last Interglacial climate, we thus gain …

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 …

Filchner Ice Shelf System, Antarctica

Understanding the contribution that polar ice sheets make to global sea-level rise is recognised internationally as urgent.  The mission of this five-year project is to capture new observations and data …

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

The world’s largest iceberg

21 May, 2021

An enormous iceberg has calved from the western side of the Ronne Ice Shelf, in Antarctica. The iceberg, newly named A-76, measures around 4320 sq km in size and is …

Synchronous timing of past abrupt climate changes

21 August, 2020

New research has revealed that climate changes associated with past episodes of abrupt warming in Greenland occurred synchronously across a region extending from the Arctic to the Southern Hemisphere subtropics. …

Drilling projects set to break new ground

29 April, 2020

Two new research projects – in partnership with British Antarctic Survey engineers –  will drill deeper than ever before in Antarctica and in space. The first project, called INCISED, is …

Earth Day 2020: The Song of the Ice

22 April, 2020

*Did you miss the live event on 22 April? The recording is now available to watch below, or on Youtube via:* Online launch of The Song of the Ice …

New mission for 1.5 million year climate record

9 April, 2019

This week a team of European researchers announces its plans for an ambitious mission to find the oldest ice on Earth (9 April 2019).  Antarctica’s ice has the potential to …

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 …

Measuring glaciers in the Himalayan mountains

11 October, 2018

Technology pioneered in Antarctica could soon be providing much-needed data on the amount of ice in the glaciers of High Mountain Asia thanks to an ingenious helicopter-mounted, low-frequency radar developed …

Halley Research Station will not winter in 2018

31 October, 2017

British Antarctic Survey (BAS) has decided, for safety reasons, that it will close its Halley VI Research Station during the 2018 Antarctic winter.  This will be the second time that …

FEATURED PAPER: Winds and sea ice

23 March, 2017

It is thought that wind changes over the Southern Ocean may have been critical in driving changes in CO2 between cold ice-world and warm-world climates. Because of inconsistencies between the …

Quest begins for oldest ice on Earth

14 November, 2016

First phase of project to collect 1.5 million years of climate data in Antarctica A team of European scientists heads to East Antarctica this month to locate the oldest ice …

FEATURED PAPER: Sea-ice reduction

18 October, 2016

A team of British climate scientists comparing today’s environment with the warm period before the last ice age has discovered a 65% reduction of Antarctic sea ice around 128,000 years …

FEATURED PAPER: Tidal controls on ice streams

18 October, 2016

The often large ocean tides around Antarctica can greatly affect the flow of ice streams even long distances upstream of their grounding lines. Observing and modelling this interaction serves as …

New interactive game ‘Ice Flows’ launches today

23 August, 2016

Researchers and games developers have joined forces to explain how climate change is affecting Antarctica. A new game called ‘Ice Flows’ launches today (Tuesday 23 August) at an international science meeting in Malaysia.

FEATURED PAPER: Recent snowfall increase

16 December, 2015

This paper reveals that the amount of snowfall in coastal West Antarctica has increased during the 20th century, with annual snow accumulation since the 1990s the highest we have observed …

PRESS RELEASE: New season – ambitious science

23 November, 2015

New season tackles ambitious science and logistical challenges The British Antarctic Survey (BAS) 2015/16 field season is underway with dozens of scientists and support staff – together with planes and tonnes …

FEATURED PAPER: Improving climate predictions

19 November, 2015

The Earth’s climate was warmer than today by at least 1°C during the Last Interglacial (between 129,000 and 116,000 years ago). Thus, the Last Interglacial represents an invaluable case study …

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: New iSTAR season starts

11 November, 2014

Scientists head to Pine Island Glacier for new research season A team of twelve scientists and support staff has arrived on Pine Island Glacier in West Antarctica in the second …

NEWS STORY: Ice shelf break up explained

12 September, 2014

Antarctic Team Discovers Mechanism for Massive Ice Shelf Collapse New research has found that the cataclysmic break-up of a large floating ice shelf in the early 2000’s was primarily the …

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: Glacier’s thinning charted

20 February, 2014

Previous rapid thinning of Pine Island Glacier sheds light on future Antarctic ice loss New research, published this week in Science, suggests that the largest single contributor to global sea …

NEWS STORY: First phase of glacier mission ends

10 February, 2014

First leg of Antarctic iSTAR mission accomplished A team of British scientists has returned from a gruelling 1500km journey across the ice of West Antarctica after successfully completing the first …

NEWS STORY: Glacier thinning at point of no return

14 January, 2014

Focus on Pine Island Glacier, Antarctica Pine Island Glacier, on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) is the largest single contributor to sea-level rise in Antarctica.  The stability of the …

NEWS STORY: Climate records from ice cores

5 December, 2013

New ice core record shows climate variability in West Antarctica A 308-year ice core record provides new data on climate variability in coastal West Antarctica and shows that a clear …

NEWS STORY: “Stripes” hinder ice flow

8 November, 2013

Tiger stripes’ under Antarctic glacier slow the flow Narrow stripes of dirt and rock beneath massive Antarctic glaciers create friction zones that slow the flow of ice toward the sea, …

NEWS STORY: Ice melt rates measured

13 September, 2013

Antarctic research details ice melt below massive glacier An expedition of international scientists to the far reaches of Antarctica’s remote Pine Island Glacier has yielded exact measurements of an undersea …

NEWS STORY: Mission to Pine Island Glacier

9 September, 2013

Ambitious science mission sets off for Antarctica A team of British scientists is making final preparations for an ambitious Antarctic science mission. They aim to discover what’s causing the recent …

NEWS STORY: Measuring icequakes

28 August, 2013

Icequakes unlock secrets of icestreams Measuring tiny icequakes is helping British Antarctic Survey scientists investigate ice streams despite the challenging environment they have to work in. The work of Emma …

NEWS STORY: Royal Society accolade for expert

20 March, 2013

Top scientist receives Royal Society Research Professorship to fund long-term UK research A Royal Society Research Professorship has been awarded to one of British Antarctic Survey’s leading climate scientists Professor …

NEWS STORY: Greenland ice shows past trends

23 January, 2013

Greenland ice core reveals warm past temperatures British Antarctic Survey scientists have contributed to a new study published in Nature (Thursday 24 January) that provides surprising details on changes in …

PRESS RELEASE: Assessing potential sea level rise

16 January, 2013

New Antarctic geological timeline aids future sea-level predictions Radiocarbon dates of tiny fossilised marine animals found in Antarctica’s seabed sediments offer new clues about the recent rapid ice loss from …

NEWS STORY: Sea level rise calculated

30 November, 2012

British Antarctic Survey researchers part of landmark study to improve projections for future sea level An international team of satellite experts including researchers at British Antarctic Survey has produced the …

NEWS STORY: Surfaces of glaciers studied

29 October, 2012

The effects of microbial life on glaciers and ice sheets Around 10% of the Earth’s surface is covered by glacial ice (glaciers and ice sheets), some of which melt as …

PRESS RELEASE: Ice sheet behaviour analysed

17 October, 2012

Ice sheet retreat controlled by the landscape Ice-sheet retreat can halt temporarily during long phases of climate warming, according to scientists. A UK team led by Durham University has found …

PRESS RELEASE: Antarctica’s climate timeline

22 August, 2012

New climate history adds to understanding of recent Antarctic Peninsula warming Results published this week by a team of polar scientists from Britain, Australia and France adds a new dimension …

NEWS STORY: Assessing potential sea level rise

10 May, 2012

New studies improve scientists’ understanding of the potential contribution of the Antarctic Ice Sheet to global sea level rise Three peer-reviewed papers in Nature and Nature Geoscience published in recent …

PRESS RELEASE: Study of largest glacier

5 December, 2011

Scientist on BBC Frozen Planet investigates how world’s largest glacier is contributing to sea-level rise A team of scientists from British Antarctic Survey (BAS) is to survey the largest glacier …

PRESS RELEASE: Greenland drilling progress

2 August, 2010

Greenland Ice Core Team Reaches Bedrock Bedrock has been reached Tuesday July 27 2010 at the deep ice core drilling site North Greenland Eemian Ice Drilling (NEEM) on the Greenland …

PRESS RELEASE: Ice thinning captured by satellites

23 September, 2009

Lasers from space show thinning of Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets The most comprehensive picture of the rapidly thinning glaciers along the coastline of both the Antarctic and Greenland ice …

PRESS RELEASE: 3D map aids ice flow estimates

20 July, 2009

New research provides insight into ice sheet behaviour A new study published this week takes scientists a step further in their quest to understand how Antarctica’s vast glaciers will contribute …

Satellite spies on doomed Antarctic ice shelf

19 March, 2002

PRESS RELEASE 19 March 2002 PR Number 5/2002 Satellite images have revealed the collapse of Larsen B ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula fulfilling predictions made by British Antarctic Survey …

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.

Reconstructing atmospheric circulation and sea-ice extent in the West Antarctic over the past 200 years using data assimilation

1 December, 2021 by Liz Thomas

The West Antarctic climate has witnessed large changes during the second half of the twentieth century including a strong and widespread continental warming, important regional changes in sea-ice extent and…

Read more on Reconstructing atmospheric circulation and sea-ice extent in the West Antarctic over the past 200 years using data assimilation

Microstructure and crystallographic preferred orientations of an azimuthally oriented ice core from a lateral shear margin: Priestley Glacier, Antarctica

26 November, 2021 by Robert Mulvaney

A 58 m long azimuthally oriented ice core has been collected from the floating lateral sinistral shear margin of the lower Priestley Glacier, Terra Nova Bay, Antarctica. The crystallographic preferred…

Read more on Microstructure and crystallographic preferred orientations of an azimuthally oriented ice core from a lateral shear margin: Priestley Glacier, Antarctica

How does the Southern Ocean palaeoenvironment during Marine Isotope Stage 5e compare to the modern?

5 November, 2021 by Claire Allen, Claus-Dieter Hillenbrand, Louise Sime, Matthew Chadwick

Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 5e (130–116 ka) represents an important ‘process analogue’ for understanding the climatic feedbacks and responses likely active under future anthropogenic warming. Reconstructing the Southern Ocean (SO) palaeoenvironment…

Read more on How does the Southern Ocean palaeoenvironment during Marine Isotope Stage 5e compare to the modern?

A new percussion hammer mechanism for a borehole deployable subglacial sediment corer

1 September, 2021 by Andy Smith, Dominic Hodgson, Daniel Ashurst, James Smith, Keith Makinson, Paul Anker, Peter Davis

Subglacial sediments have the potential to reveal information about the controls on glacier flow, changes in ice-sheet history and characterise life in those environments. Retrieving sediments from beneath the ice,…

Read more on A new percussion hammer mechanism for a borehole deployable subglacial sediment corer