As U.S. Ice Core Lab reaches capacity, scientists plan future storage efforts


  • Randy Showstack


Joan Fitzpatrick, technical director of the U.S. National Ice Core Laboratory (NICL), says that most visitors to the curatorial research facility at the Denver Federal Center in Colorado first notice the temperature: −34 °C in the main storage area, and −24 °C in the lab. Afterwards, they may note that the approximately 5000 sq. m repository is packed full with cores, primarily from Antarctica and Greenland.

NICL, which is jointly operated by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and jointly funded at $380,000 per year, currently holds about 15,838 m of ice cores in 14,069 canisters of aluminized cardboard. The facility, which houses cores collected through NSF's Office of Polar Programs and USGS' Geologic Division, probably is the most comprehensive collection of ice cores in the world, according to Fitzpatrick.