Project Information
Collaborative Research: Digital Optical Imaging of Ice Cores for Curation and Scientific Applications
This award supports the development of novel methods for digital image analysis of glacial ice cores that are stored at the National Ice Core Laboratory (NICL) in Denver, Colorado. Ice cores are a critical source of information on how Earth has changed over time, since indicators of local climate (snow accumulation, temperature), regional characteristics (wind-blown materials such as sea salt, dust and pollen), global processes (e.g., CO2, methane), and even extraterrestrial influences (cosmogenic isotopes) are stored in the ice on a common time scale. This project will develop a high-resolution optical scanning system for laboratory curation of ice core images, internet-based search and retrieval capabilities, a digital image analysis system specifically for ice core studies, and methods to integrate ice core image analysis with other dating methods. These tools will be developed and tested in conjunction with scientific investigations of NICL holdings. Optical scanning and analysis tools will improve understanding of the historical development of the ice collected from a particular location and will help to resolve challenges such as ice that has lost stratigraphic order through flow processes.
By providing permanent online digital archives of ice core images, this project will greatly improve the documentation and availability of ice core data while reducing time and costs for subsequent scientific investigations. Using the internet, ice core scientists will be able to determine the appropriateness of specific NICL holdings for various scientific studies. By optically scanning ice cores as they are processed at NICL, any researcher will be able to examine an ice core in similar detail to the few investigators who were fortunate enough to observe it before modifications from sampling and storage. Re-examination of cores could be done decades later by anyone at any location, which is not possible now because only the interpretation of the original observer is recorded. Integration of digital image data into ice core analysis will speed discovery, allow collaborative interpretation, and enhance consistency of analysis to improve ice core dating, identification of melt layers, location of flow disturbances, and more. The equipment will be housed at NICL and will be available to the broad community, improving scientific infrastructure.
This work will also have numerous broader impacts. Ice core science addresses fundamental questions of human interest related to global warming, abrupt climate change, biogeochemical cycling, and more. The principal investigators broadly disseminate their scientific findings through numerous outlets, ranging from meeting with government officials, chairing and serving on NRC panels, writing popular books and articles, publishing in scientific literature, teaching classes, talking to civic groups, and appearing on radio and television. The results from ice core analyses have directly informed policymakers and will continue to do so. Thus, by improving ice core science, this projectl will benefit society.
Person Role
McGwire, Kenneth C. Investigator
Antarctic Glaciology Award # 0230149
AMD - DIF Record(s)
Data Management Plan
None in the Database
Product Level:
Not provided
  1. Sigl M, Fudge TJ, Winstrup M, Cole-Dai J, Ferris D, McConnell JR, Taylor KC, Welten KC, Woodruff TE, Adolphi F, Bisiaux M, Brook EJ, Buizert C, Caffee MW, Dunbar NW, Edwards R, Geng L, Iverson N, Koffman B, Layman L, Maselli OJ, McGwire K, Muscheler R, Nishiizumi K, Pasteris DR, Rhodes RH, Sowers TA. 2016. The WAIS Divide deep ice core WD2014 chronology -Part 2: Annual-layer counting (0.31 ka BP). Climate of the Past, 12, p. 769-786. doi: 10.5194/cp-12-769-2016. (doi:10.5194/cp-12-769-2016)
  2. Sigl, M., Fudge, T. J., Winstrup, M., Cole-Dai, J., Ferris, D., McConnell, J. R., … Sowers, T. A. (2015). The WAIS Divide deep ice core WD2014 chronology – Part 2: Annual-layer counting (0–31 ka BP). Climate of the Past Discussions, 11(4), 3425–3474. (doi:10.5194/cpd-11-3425-2015)
Platforms and Instruments

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