Laboratoire de Glaciologie - ULB

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Field work


The melting of continental ice (glaciers, ice caps and ice sheets) is a substantial source of current sea-level rise, and one that is accelerating more rapidly than was predicted even a few years ago. Indeed, the most recent report from IPCC highlighted that the uncertainty in projections of future sea-level rise is dominated by uncertainty concerning continental ice, and that understanding of the key processes that will lead to loss of continental ice must be improved before reliable projections of sea-level rise can be produced. The ice2sea programme will draw together European and international partners, to reduce these uncertainties.

More information HERE.


Deep ice behaviour and subglacial linkages within IceCube, Antarctica (2008-2012)

IceCube is a cubic kilometre large neutrino observatory under construction at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. Like its predecessor, the Antarctic Muon And Neutrino Detector Array (AMANDA), IceCube is being constructed in deep Antarctic ice by deploying thousands of spherical optical sensors (photomultiplier tubes, or PMTs) at depths between 1,450 and 2,450 meters. The sensors are deployed on "strings" of sixty modules each, into holes melted in the ice using a hot water drill. The IIHE laboratory of the ULB is strongly involved in this project.

More information on Frank Pattyn's page : HERE


North Greenland Eemian Ice Drilling (2007-2011)

NEEM is an international ice core research project aimed at retrieving an ice core from North-West Greenland (camp position 77.45°N 51.06°W) reaching back through the previous interglacial, the Eemian. The project logistics is managed by the Centre for Ice and Climate, Denmark, and the air support is carried out by US ski equipped Hercules managed through the US Office of Polar Programs, National Science Foundation.

More information HERE.


Antarctic Subglacial Processes and Interactions (2005-2009)

Role of transition zones in ice sheet stability

The aim of ASPI (Antarctic Subglacial Processes and Interactions) is
(i) to understand the interactions between the ice sheet and the subglacial environment and the processes that control the Antarctic ice sheet, and
(ii) to quantitatively determine the stability of the ice sheet in a changing climate and the impact of climatic variations on the coastal ice sheet.

ASPI is the follow-up of AMICS.

More information on Frank Pattyn's page : HERE


Ice Sheet Model Intercomparison Project for Higher-Order ice sheet Models (2006-2008)


- Frank PATTYN, Laboratoire de Glaciologie, Départment des Sciences de la Terre et de l'Environnement, Université Libre de Bruxelles, CP 160/03, Av. F.D. Roosevelt 50, 1050 - Bruxelles (email:

- Tony PAYNE, Bristol Glaciology Centre, School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol B88 1SS, England (email:

More information on Frank Pattyn's page : HERE


Sea Ice Biogeochemistry in a CLimate change perspective (2002-2007)

This research project aims to assess to which extent ice-covered polar oceans contribute to processes regulating the Earth’s climate. It involves a new multidisciplinary consortium combining the expertise of glaciologists, biologists, geochemists and ecosystems-modelers of the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB).The main goal of the project is to study,understand and quantify the physical and biogeochemical processes associated with the sea ice biota that govern the emissions of marine gases of climatic significance.


Antarctic ice-sheet dynamics and climatic change: Modelling and Ice Composition Studies (2000-2005)

The main objective of AMICS (Antarctic ice-sheet dynamics and climatic change: Modelling and Ice Composition Studies) network proposal is to contribute to the international research effort leading to an improved understanding of the dynamic behaviour of the Antarctic ice sheet resulting from climatic change. More specifically it aims at a better knowledge of the internal dynamics of the Antarctic ice sheet and to a better assessment of the interactions of the ice sheet with its boundary conditions. The major components of this interdisciplinary research objective are modelling and ice composition studies.

More information on Frank Pattyn's page : HERE


European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica

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 ice cores. It is the goal to get from these records and especially from comparisons of the records with their Greenland counterparts information about the natural climate variability and about the mechanisms of fast climatic changes.
In order to meet the given scientific objectives multiproxyparameter data sets of climate change will be derived from the new ice cores in unprecedented completeness and temporal resolution largely making use of new developments in ice core analytical techniques.


Interdisciplinary Ice tank Experiment (1998- 2001 and ongoing)

INTERICE is a multidisciplinary ice tank study, involving an international team of scientists (Belgium, Germany, Norway, the United Kingdom, Finland, The United States.). The ice tank offers the possibility of refining field measurements by carrying out experiments under fully controlled environmental conditions. Work on physical, biogeochemical, and sedimentological aspects of growth processes of artificial sea ice using the large indoor tank complement observations from both the Arctic and the Antarctic. Tank experiments have several advantages over field investigations.

Lake Vostok

Basal Ice at Lake Vostok (2000- ongoing)

Our laboratory is actively involved in the interpretation of the physico-chemical properties of the basal ice of the Vostok ice core. A geochemical investigation of the deepest part of the Vostok ice core between 3310 m, the depth at which the palaeoenvironmental record present in the ice above is lost, and the bottom of the core about 130 m above subglacial Lake Vostok reveals two contrasted sections.
The upper section (3310- 3539 m depth) still consists of ice of meteoric origin but subjected to widespread complex deformation. This deformation has been analyzed in light of a dD- deuterium excess diagram and information on microparticles, crystal sizes and chemical elements distributions in that part of the core. Such ice deformation occurred when the ice was still grounded upstream from Vostok Station, in a region with subfreezing temperatures.
The lower section from 3539 m to the bottom of the core at 3623 m depth is lake ice formed by freezing of subglacial Lake Vostok waters. This is indicated by the isotopic properties (dD, d18O and deuterium excess), by electrical conductivity measurements (ECM), crystallography and gaz content of the ice. These ice core data together with data on ionic chemistry favor an origin of the lake ice by frazil ice generation in a supercooled (below pressure melting point) water plume existing in the lake followed by accretion and consolidation by subsequent freezing of the host water.


Basal Ice Facies of Temperate Glaciers (1997-ongoing)

This project is probably the longest-lived of our laboratory. It has been looking at the basal layer of various types of alpine glaciers from the Swiss-French-Italian Alps, using the multiparametric approach of ice properties (ice fabrics and textures, ice chemistry, stable isotopes, solid impurity content a.s.o). to decipher boundary conditions at the ice-bedrock interface. We are looking at an array of topics such as: subglacial hydrology, glacial erosion processes, chemical sorting effect in sediment loaded ice, debris incorporation a the glacier bed, carbonate precipitates on subglacial floors, ice deformation around obstacles, inherited characteristics of proglacial streams.


Ice Shelf Marine Ice (1992- ongoing)

This research project deals with ice-ocean interactions at ice sheet boundaries. The main goal of the project is to study, understand and quantify how ice shelves stability is affected by interactions with ocean water masses, in a changing climate perspective. Focus is put on what is known as "marine ice" i.e. ice formed in the water column below or at the front of ice shelves, as a result of thermohaline circulation loops affecting the water masses in the sub-ice shelf cavity. This ice then floats up and accretes at the bottom of the ice shelf and potentially acts as a welding agent of the large crevasses forming either at the grounding line (where the ice shelf gets afloat) or at ice shelf fronts (degenerating into rifts as iceberg calving proceeds).

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