ice core lab

Ice Core Laboratory

vallotThe DRI Ice Core Laboratory is arguably the premier state-of-the-art facility; we specialize in the development and application of leading-edge technologies for the analysis of polar and alpine ice cores. The Ice Core Laboratory includes a cold-room, class 100 trace chemistry clean room, and wet chemistry laboratories.


Glaciers and ice sheets contain ice which has remained frozen for millennia. By drilling into the ice and analyzing the chemistry of the frozen water and trapped air bubbles, we can determine the past changes in climate, ice sheet size, and sea level, atmospheric composition, and how humans have impacted the environment and the environment has impacted humans.


With the DRI method, ice cores are analyzed by continuous melting on a custom-built heated plate. Using a series of high precision pumps, the meltwater is then transferred to a suite of instruments allowing for high-resolution measurements in real time.

The Ice Core Laboratory also hosts the trace chemistry laboratory which includes two Thermo-Finnigan Element2 high-resolution ICP-MS instruments allowing for the measurement of elements to as low as parts per quadrillion concentration. The Ice Core Laboratory and its staff are equipped to analyze snow and ice samples from around the globe.

The Ice Core Laboratory analyzes ice cores provided by researchers from around the world, supports research and training of undergraduate and graduate students, and routinely hosts international students and scientists.

IceCoreFactSheet samplingcollecting ice core sampleMonicaArienzo loading ice core


    We conduct research for a broad range of applied projects worldwide including:
  • Human impacts on remote regions such as heavy metal pollution of the Antarctic since the late 19th century, and industrial pollution of the Northern Hemisphere during recent decades to millennia including soot, heavy metals, acid rain, and greenhouse gases.
  • Impacts of volcanism and other climate variables on human societies from the Bronze Age to present (last 3,000 years) in collaboration with historians and climate modelers.
  • Linkages between large-scale atmospheric circulation, hydroclimate, and wildfires such as during the Holocene (last 14,000 years).
  • Past drivers and changes of desert dust in the atmosphere and impacts on Earth’s energy balance, ocean fertilization, and the carbon cycle.
  • Effect of soot, desert dust, and other impurities on aging and melting of seasonal snow packs in the western United States and impacts on water resources


Dr. Joe McConnell
Research Professor, Division of Hydrologic Sciences
PHONE: 775-673-7348
EMAIL: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Dr. Monica Arienzo
Assistant Research Professor, Division of Hydrologic Sciences
PHONE: 775-673-7693
EMAIL: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Facts to Go: Download the Ice Core fact sheet

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