Ice and Climate

Ice and Climate

Land ice plays an important role in the earth climate system. Through its albedo, ice masses affect the global energy budget directly, while the interaction between atmosphere and glacier surfaces determines the local climate to a high degree. A warmer greenhouse climate might lead to enhanced melting of glaciers and ice caps, and changes in the dynamics of glaciers, causing changes in ocean circulation and sea level. The mission of the Ice and Climate group at the Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research of Utrecht University (UU/IMAU) is to improve our understanding of the exchange processes between atmosphere and ice/snow surfaces and the dynamics of glaciers and ice sheets.


Princetonplein 5
3584 CC Utrecht

Phone: +31 30 253 3275

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Automatic Weather Stations

Since 1994, UU/IMAU has deployed several Automatic Weather Stations (AWS) on different glaciers around the world (Antarctica, Greenland, Alps, Norway, Iceland, Svalbard), and in different climate regimes. The stations are designed to work for long periods without being serviced and offer the opportunity to measure meteorological variables in remote areas and in harsh weather conditions. The main purpose of these stations is to study the mass balance and energy balance at these locations in view of global climate change, sea level rise and historic climate reconstructions.

Regional Modeling

Since the mid-1990's, UU/IMAU, in cooperation with the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI), has been using and improving the Regional Atmospheric Climate Model RACMO to study the mass budget of the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica and several smaller ice caps. In conjunction, a firn model has been developed for detailed studies on firn processes, but also in support of laser and radar altimetry observations.

Karthaus Summerschool

The Karthaus Summer School on Ice Sheets and Glaciers in the Climate System provides a basic introduction to the dynamics of glaciers and ice sheets with a focus on ice-climate interactions. The course is meant for Ph.D. students that work on (or will soon start working on) a glaciology-related climate project. A few places are available for junior scientists.


Glacier monitoring with Copernicus Sentinel-2

In order to get a better understanding of the recent and current climate, researchers of the Ice and Climate group use satellite information to help refine models for (sub-) surface processes and ice dynamics. They can complement the detailed measurements from weather station by providing a bird’s eye view over a large region. Or they can provide detailed context to regional climate models. For a large part these remote sensing measurements are based upon the free and open data of the Copernicus Sentinel satellite missions. The first suit of satellites of these constellations has been launched in 2013 and will be there for many decades to come. The satellite imagery that are already present in the archive help our understanding of fast and vast changing components in the mountain and polar regions. In this ESA video, our colleague Bas Altena highlights some examples of the use of satellite information for high mountain glaciers .

Watch the movie ESA made


Research on Greenland's Ice Sheet 2020

See how our colleagues do their research on Greenland's Ice Sheet

How do we measure the mass loss of the Greenland Ice Sheet? Join climate scientist Maurice van Tiggelen on a fieldtrip to Greenland and take a look at the images of the work and atmosphere for yourself.

Watch the slides


Witnessing the death of a glacier

Education in glaciology: Witnessing the death of a glacier

A blog about Hochjochferner, a glacier in the Italian Alps, and each year visited during the Karthaus summer school on Glaciers in the Climate system. Link to the EGU Cryosphere Division Blog


Richardson medal Hans Oerlemans

The International Glaciological Society (IGS) has awarded the Society's Richardson Medal to Johannes (Hans) Oerlemans.

Johannes (Hans) Oerlemans has provided outstanding service to the field of Glaciology and has made a particularly significant impact on many early career glaciologists. Hans established the Karthaus summer school on “Ice Sheets and Glaciers in the Climate System” more than two decades ago and now runs it annually, providing a unique training experience. Karthaus has had a major impact on our community by educating and mentoring students and ECS, and also because it has provided an opportunity for the teachers to meet, interact and exchange ideas. Since its formation, more than 50 teachers have taught at the course and institutions across the world have sent over 500 students to Karthaus. Hans’ mentoring and education efforts have also been major in many other areas.

Reed more on the site of the IGS