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European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica (EPICA)

The main objective of European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica (EPICA) is to drill two new deep ice cores in Antarctica in order to obtain a full documentation of the climatic and atmospheric record changes in the past 900,000 years. EPICA, chaired by Prof. Dr. Heinrich Miller, is a joint European Science Foundation and European Commission (EC) scientific programme, funded by the European Commission (Contract No. EVK2-CT-2000-00077) with national contributions from Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.


Aims and Objectives:

The main objective of EPICA is to obtain a full documentation of the climatic and atmospheric record archived in Antarctic ice by drilling and analyzing two new ice cores and to compare these with their Greenland counterparts. Evaluation of these records will provide information about the natural climate variability and mechanisms of fast climatic changes during the last glacial epoch. Analyses of the air extracted from the ice will reveal variations of the atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations and their forcing and amplification of climatic changes as recorded in the ice matrix. Chemical analyses will give information on atmospheric aerosol concentration and their climate feedback. From cosmogenic isotopes information on variations in the solar irradiance is expected. A further important objective of EPICA is to investigate reactions of the global environment on climatic changes. Of interest is the reaction of the Antarctic mass balance on climate variations and their influence on sea level changes.


The specific questions to be answered by this project are:


  • Are the rapid climate changes of the last glacial global events or restricted to the Northern hemisphere?
  • Did rapid climate shifts also occur during previous ice ages?
  • Is the Holocene exceptional in its climatic stability?
  • What is causing the transition from glacials to interglacials and what triggers rapid climate variations
  • How are global climate changes linked between the two hemispheres?

  • What is the contribution of greenhouse gases to the glacial-interglacial temperature change and in return what are the climate induced changes in biogeochemical cycles responsible for atmospheric concentration changes?


Drill sites:

EPICA's goal is to retrieve two ice cores from different regions on the Antarctic ice sheet which are especially selected to answer the above mentioned questions. The first core was drilled at Dome C (adjacent to French/Italian Concordia station), coordinates in WGS 84: 75 ° 06.10' S, 123° 23.71', 3233 m, in the Indian Ocean sector of the East Antarctic plateau. This core is longest ice core record (see technical details)on earth providing a history of detailed climate and atmospheric changes over the last 900,000 years.  

The second core was drilled in Dronning Maud Land (coordinates in WGS84: 75 ° 0.10' S, 0° 4.07' E, 2882 m) in the Atlantic sector of Antarctica covering more than a complete glacial cycle. The dominant influence of air masses originating over the southern Atlantic to this site will allow to investigate the coupling of the northern and southern hemisphere in detail. Furthermore the higher accumulation rate encountered in this region enables to reconstruct high resolution climate records over the last 160,000 years. Accordingly, it represents a direct counterpart of the central Greenland ice core records and is ideal to study the occurrence of rapid climate changes. The current drilling status together with detailed information on the Kohnen station  including station newsletters (german only) are also available on-line.



Publications and Data

For a listing of EPICA related publications, please see Institute of Marine and Atmospheric research Utrecht (IMAU). The ice core data will be stored in PANGAEA database.

Contact Information

Chairman of Scientific Steering Committee: Prof. Heinrich Miller, AWI Bremerhaven
Vice-Chairman of Scientific Steering Committee: Prof. Jean Jouzel, Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement (LSCE), Gif-sur-Yvette Cedex, France
Chairman of science group: Dr. Eric Wolff, British Antarctic Survey (BAS), Cambridge, UK. 

For additional information related to the German contribution to EPICA, please directly contact  Dr. Hans Oerter

Participating institutions:

  • Alfred-Wegener-Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Bremerhaven, Germany
  • Laboratoire de Modelisation du Climat et de l'Environnement (LMCE/DSM), France.
  • Dipartimento di Scienze dell'Ambiente e del Territirio, Universita degli Studi di Milano, Italy.
  • Niels Bohr Institute, Department of Geophysics, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.
  • Dept. of Meteorology, Stockholm University, Sweden.
  • Institut Francais pour la Recherche et la Technologie Polaires (IFRTP), France.
  • Laboratoire de Glaciologie et Geophysique de l'Environnement, France.
  • Laboratoire de Glaciologie et Geophysique de l'Environnement du CNRS, France.
  • Institute of Marine and Atmospheric Research (IMAU), University of Utrecht, Netherlands.
  • British Antarctic Survey, United Kingdom.
  • Dept. des Science de la Terre et de l'Environnement, Section Glaciologie, Universite Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium.
  • Physikalisches Institut der Universität Bern, Switzerland.
  • Norwegian Polar Institute, Norway.

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