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International Partnership in Ice Core Sciences (IPICS)

Ice cores provide information about past climate and environmental conditions on timescales from decades to hundreds of millennia, and direct records of the composition of the atmosphere. As such, they are cornerstones of global change research. For example, ice cores play a central role in showing how closely climate and greenhouse gas concentrations were linked in the past, and in demonstrating that very abrupt climate switches can occur.

With the completion of major projects in Greenland and Antarctica over the last 15 years, the international ice coring community is planning for the next several decades. The costs and scope of future work create the need for coordinated international collaboration. Developing this international collaboration is the charge of IPICS, the International Partnerships in Ice Core Sciences, a planning group currently composed of ice core scientists, engineers, and drillers from 24 nations. IPICS is supported by SCAR, where it is an Expert Group under the Physical Sciences GroupPAGES (Past Global Changes),  and IACS (International Association of Cryospheric Sciences).

For further information see the IPICS website, hosted by PAGES (Past Global Changes).

International Partnerships in Ice Core Sciences (IPICS) consists of ice core scientists, engineers, and drillers from the leading laboratories and national operators carrying out ice core science, acting to further the aims as described in the mission statement. The mission is to define and develop priorities, enable coordination between different ice core laboratories, act as a voice for the ice core community, and train the next generation of ice core scientists. It now consists of representatives from 24 nations, and it is believed all nations with an active ice core programme are members.

Active since 2002, and affiliated to PAGES (Past Global Changes) and IACS (International Association of Cryospheric Sciences), IPICS became a SCAR Expert Group in 2008. Following an external review of IPICS, the SCAR Delegates Meeting in 2016 approved the continuation of the Expert Group for 8 more years (2016-2024).

IPICS set itself a goal to define a series of priority projects, around which international efforts could coalesce, but keeping them to a small number (maximum 5). The current white papers are for Oldest ice, Last Interglacial, IPICS-40k, and IPICS-2k. There is also a white paper about technical challenges such as drilling technology:

1. The oldest ice core: A 1.5 million year record of climate and greenhouse gases from Antarctica (a time period where Earth’s climate shifted from 40,000 year to 100,000 year cycles).

2. History and Dynamics of the Last Interglacial Period from Ice Cores: A comprehensive record of environmental change during the last interglacial period

3. The IPICS 40,000 year network: A bipolar record of climate forcing and response

4. The IPICS 2k Array: A network of ice core climate and climate forcing records for the last two millennia

5. A fifth, and critical, element of IPICS is the development of advanced ice core drilling technology. A technical white paper, entitled "Ice Core Drilling Technical Challenges" addresses this.


Full information about IPICS is available on the IPICS website.


Terms of Reference

The IPICS Mission Statement is:

  • Defining priorities for international ice core science for the next two decades.
  • Developing the identified priority projects, and any organisational structures needed to enable them.
  • Acting as a voice to promote ice core science, and the priority projects in particular, to funding and logistics agencies, to international organisations, and to other scientific communities.
  • Promoting the maintenance, enhancement and sharing of expertise and capability in ice core drilling, curation, analysis and other technical areas needed to carry out the priority projects.
  • Encouraging the training of young ice core scientists needed to carry out the current priority projects and to develop the next generation of projects.

The IPICS Constitution is also available on the documents page of the IPICS website.