MSc and BSc projects at PICE

Do your Master Thesis Project at the section of Ice Climate and Earth. We work on analyzing past climate variability by means of ice core analysis. 

As a Master student at the section, you will work in active and dynamic groups on a real research project. We offer both 6-month and 12-month projects. Below you can find thesis project suggestions. You are also very welcome to come by the centre and ask the researchers for further options or present your own idea that we can develop together.

Water isotope group

Greenland past temperatures from volcanic eruptions and high resolution water isotope data - A new tool?
In this project you will have the chance to work with an array of high quality - high resolution water isotope data from the Greenland Ice Sheet in order to estimate past temperatures. You will combine the information stored in the water isotope time series with information from past volcanic eruptions from Iceland and the tropics in a novel way that has not been attempted before and has potential to yield data-based, past-temperatures spatial maps for the Greenland Ice Sheet.

Required skills:

  • Familiarity with scripting/numerical programming - Preferably good skills in Python.
  • Some previous experience with time series and spectral analysis will be a plus.

What you can expect: 

  • You will be part of a very dynamic group at the Center for Ice and Climate and meet colleagues with a very broad range of backgrounds.
  • You will sharpen your Python coding and data analysis skills.
  • You will get hands-on experience with the Community Firn Model, a suite of python implementations of densification models for polar firn and ice that has recently been extended to include water isotope diffusion processes.

Contact: Vasileios Gkinis

The CFA group

MSc and BSc projects in Continuous Flow Analysis (CFA).

Contact: Helle Kjær

These particular master and bachelor projects involve chemical measurements of ice cores, for example informing on wind patterns, aridity, volcanic eruptions and sea ice variability.

1) Further Development of the LISA (Light weight In-Situ Analysis) box (60 ECTS) 

A light weight version of a Continuous Flow analysis (CFA) system has been developed and tested in Greenland field conditions. The box is developed for investigating surface variability of volcanic eruptions, forest fires and accumulation. The box is currently equipped with a conductivity sensor (volcanoes), and two florescence detectors. This project is on further making the box suitable for insoluble dust particles, as well as on improving the depth registration. The project offers extensive laboratory work, data analysis and interpretation and dependent on timing possibly field work in Greenland.

2) Climate chemistry record from Central Greenland ice cores

The goal of this project is to measure climate proxies in ice core samples. The project involves learning Ion Chromatography techniques, and filling in a crucial gap in the knowledge of the past 10 thousand years’ climate. The Ion Chromatograph measures several ion species that can provide information on the climate of the past; eg. Chlorine for sea salt, which relates to sea ice and wind speed, Fluoride and sulphate which relate to volcanic eruptions and Bromide which is a new proxy for sea ice.

3) Volcanic events, Desert dust and other climate proxies in the Antarctic Mt Brown South ice core

A 295 m ice core from Mt Brown South in coastal East Antarctica was drilled in 2017/8 and will be analysed at University of Copenhagen in late 2018. The core records the past 1000 years of Antarctic climate variability. Multiple MSc projects are available to study proxy records to be measured in the Mt Brown ice core. These proxies include Dust particles originating from distant deserts; Sodium and chloride for sea salt, which relates to sea ice and wind speed; Ammonium and formate which are indicators of forest fires; Acidity, Fluoride and sulphate which relate to volcanic eruptions; Bromide, a new proxy for sea ice.  MSc projects will include participating in CFA and Ion Chromatograph measurement campaigns, conducting continuous measurements of chemical impurities in the ice, data analysis and interpretation. The climate data will complement a network of other Antarctic and Greenland ice cores.

Gas group

Atmospheric Hydrogen as a new climatic parameter

We know much about the past atmosphere; E.g. the pace at which greenhouse gas concentrations have varied in the past. Our knowledge stems from the air trapped in ice cores. Interwoven with CH4 and CO are production and destruction processes of molecular hydrogen. Hydrogen thus offers complementary information on important components of the chemistry in our atmosphere. To our knowledge neither concentration nor isotope records of molecular hydrogen exist prior to 1993 (2). Our final goal is to extend this record based on ice core measurements. However, several aspects of such an endeavor are unclear. 1) Due to the small molecule size of H2 it is expected that hydrogen is lost after recovery of the ice core. 2) Hydrogen may fractionate during the last step of air occlusion in the ice. Both aspects need clarification. The master thesis has two aspects 1) Measure the permeability of molecular hydrogen through natural ice. 2) Investigate the potential fractionation during air occlusion in polar firn. For the measurement a system needs to be designed and built. Our current deep drill project EGRIP ( offers access to freshly drilled core to investigate above mentioned questions.

More information and contact

Oxygen isotopes (of atmospheric oxygen)

Ice from the bottom of the Greenland ice sheet is difficult to date as it is often disconnected from the continuous climate record above. However, it would be very important to know where Greenland was glaciated in earlier warm periods to get better projections into the future (e.g. Figure 0.1).  The changes in the oxygen isotopes of O2 can be used to date Greenland ice core sections by matching them to their well dated Antarctic counterparts. The project focuses on measurements of the deep sections of ice cores in our archive and dating those sections. The focus will be on the historic Camp Century core (history of drilling to bedrock). The project is available immediately.

More information and contact

CO2 in the ancient atmosphere

Reconstructions of atmospheric CO2 concentrations revealed significant changes on glacial-interglacial time scale but also on shorter intervals like over the present warm period. Concentration measurements do not give any information about the processes responsible for these changes in CO2 concentrations. Here the isotopes of carbon have been proven to be useful. The carbon isotope signatures of the major carbon reservoirs (ocean, biosphere, sediments and atmosphere) diver. Therefore the d13C of CO2 in combination with its concentration reveals variations in the C fluxes between those reservoirs. We have a working system to measure concentration and isotopic composition of CO2 extracted from ancient air trapped in the polar ice sheets. In the frame of collaborative ice core drilling projects in Antarctica samples need to be measured and interpreted. This will be the topic of a master project that is available immediately.

More information and contact

Methane and the clathrate gun hypothesis of fast climate change

Enormous amounts of CH4 are sitting on the ocean floor in the form of methane hydrates (also called clathrates). Clathrates are cages formed by water molecules where gas molecules are trapped in the hollow space inside the cage. This symbiotic structure is stable at low temperature/ high pressure. The clathrate gun hypothesis speculates that a spontaneous release of methane from clathrates increases the atmospheric methane composition to the degree where the boosted greenhouse effect triggers climate change. So far we have not found any sign of such catastrophic events occurring. However, it is speculated that less dramatic release from clathrates might happen during times of rapid climate change. Such events are hard to catch due to the short lifetime of CH4 in the atmosphere. Atmospheric CH4 originating from clathrates has a distinct isotopic composition of hydrogen. So far we are able to measure the carbon isotopic composition. The master thesis project involves extending our measurement capacities to isotopes of hydrogen, testing the new system, and performing first measurements over a climatologically interesting time period. This is a 12 month project.

More information and contact

EGRIP project: The ice crystals

When snow is compressed to ice, crystals are formed with nearly random orientation. As the ice is further compressed and moves down in the ice sheet the ice crystals grow and the crystal orientation is influenced by ice deformation. The aim of this project is to measure the crystal size and orientation with depth. The results can be used to understand and develop anisotopic deformation laws for ice. The Master project is within climate research and has the potential to lead to cutting edge ice core research and will include periods of measurements at the Alfred-Wegener Institute in Bremerhaven, Germany.

Contact: Anders Svensson or Dorthe Dahl-Jensen.

Ice flow modelling

1) Observation and modelling of ice flow in the Northeast Greenland Ice Stream (NEGIS) 

Satellite and in-situ observations of surface elevation and velocity at EGRIP inform of the fast ice stream flow. In connection to the study of the NEGIS ice stream we plan high resolution surface elevation mapping using drone, rover and GPS stakes. We also have developed software (IMGraft) to download satellite data to map the surface velocities, and continuum mechanical flow models to study internal folding and anisotropy in the ice crystals. Master projects in relation to this research can contain a mixture of experimental work on ice stream flow and ice flow modelling.

Contacts: Christine Hvidberg and Aslak Grinsted

2) Measuring ice flow from space

In this project you will use satellite imagery to quantify ice flow, and how it changes over time. There are many possible options concerning study region. The project will be using the ImGRAFT open-source toolbox.

Contact: Aslak Grinsted

3) Ice flow and machine learning

Ice sheet mass balance is a key factor in controlling present and future sea level rise. Ice flow velocities are observed from space using overlapping pairs of images, but the derived velocity maps are not complete. In this project, we will use satellite-derived surface velocity data from GEUS’s PROMICE project and machine learning techniques to study changes in Greenland outlet glaciers in ultra-high resolution in space and time. The project is done in collaboration with researchers at GEUS, see e.g.

Contact: Christine Hvidberg and Aslak Grinsted

4) Extreme coastal storms in a changing climate

The St. Petersburg Flood of 1824 In this project you will build empirical models of storm surge threat. The aim is to quantify how storm surge threat has changed over time, and whether we can find predictable behaviour. The study can both be global or local in scope. You may also contact me if you are interested in the empirical modelling other types of extreme weather events (hurricane winds/ extreme rain).

Contact: Aslak Grinsted

5) Modelling the inception of the glacial cycles in Greenland

The present-day Greenland ice sheet formed more than 1 million years ago as global climate gradually cooled down and the global climate went into series of glacial cycles. In this project we will use ice sheet simulations to understand the inception and long-term stability of the Greenland ice sheet, which will help predict its future evolution and contribution to sea level rise in a warmer climate. The present and future stability of the Greenland ice sheet can also be targeted in this project. The project is done in collaboration with researchers at GEUS (Anne Solgaard) or DMI.

Contact: Christine Hvidberg

6) Greenland climate and ice sheet mass balance

The Greenland ice sheet is losing mass and is currently the largest contributor to global sea level rise. The important processes are related to the surface mass balance and the calving into the ocean. In this project you will work with regional climate model output to investigate climate and surface mass balance in Greenland. The project is done in collaboration with DMI, see e.g.

Contact: Christine Hvidberg or Jens Hesselbjerg Christensen

Ocean group

The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation is the name for a whole zoo of ocean processes that carry heat from the Gulf of Mexico to Scandinavia. The physical oceanographers at Team Ocean/NBI use computer models of the ocean circulation to investigate these processes, and a MSc thesis in our team will typically focus on theories of ocean circulation and numerical simulations of climate. Our work is based in theories and numerical simulations of ocean circulation. If you have a strong background in physics and mathematics we would very much like to talk to you, and together we can find an ocean-physics based project to work on. We use ultra-high resolution models of the global ocean circulation (see picture) to understand the driving forces behind major ocean currents, and their variability. Thesis topics are taylored to match students' interest and Team Ocean's current focus, but they will all involve High Performance Computing and Big Data.
More information can be found on the Team Ocean website

Contact: Markus Jochum

Bachelor´s and Master´s projects in Meteorology

If you are considering to do your bachelor´s or Master´s project in Meteorology, you´ll  find som ideas below. This is not to say that these are the only ones. They´re just for inspiration, so have a chat with us, if your ideas are moving in a different direction.

The Development of Precipitation

According to IPCC climate simulations more situations with intense precipitation are expected to take place in a warmer climate in the future. To some it is already common knowledge that this has already happened, because of the several occurrences with heavy precipitation in recent years. In this project the observations of precipitation must be critically reviewed. It could be in Denmark, in Sweden or globally. The weather situations must be analyzed with a view to the stability and water content of the air.

Improved Predictions of Cloudbursts

Assimilation of radar and other relevant data in a state of the art NWP (Numerical Weather Prediction) system. The aim is to improve short term weather predictions of cloudbursts – a very hot topic within modern NWP.

Ultra Low Frequent Atmospheric Variability

Formulation and analysis of horizontal diffusion/mixing  and its effect on ultra low frequent atmospheric variability in climate models with medium to low resolution, used for paleoclimatic studies.

Realistic Parametrization in a Lagrangian based geophysical Fluid  Dynamic Model

Formulation and parametrization of a minimally artificial mixing numerical transport scheme in a geophysic fluid dynamic model. (Based on a new, hybrid Eulerian Lagrangian approach). A collaboration with Li Dong, Institute of Atmospheric Physics, CAS, Beijing.

Projects with the WRF model

WRF is NBI´s state of the art atmosphere model, which can be used for a number of student projects, including thesis and bachelor´s projects.
- Simulations of concrete weather situations, e.g. the storm in October 2013.
- What does it mean for the windsystems if we deploy 5000 10 MW windmills?

Stochastic Resonance in a Physically Based Energy Balance Model

This project is an attempt to formulate a simple, but sufficiently non-linear, physically based energy balance model of the climate system, which can produce stochastic resonance.

The Greenhouse Effect

The greenhouse effect has increased in the last 100 years because of the continuous outlet of a series of gasses like CO2, CH4 and CFC gasses. It has not yet been possible to verify their effects on the radiation flux at the surface of the Earth directly. In this project the task is to try to verify the increasing greenhouse effect indirectly by analyzing temperature measurements at night. The idea is that cooling at the surface has declined compared to 25, 50 and 100 years ago because of the isolating effect of the greenhouse gasses.

New Methods for solving the fully  compressible Euler Equations

This master project will examine different options for numerically solving the un-approximated governing equations for atmospheric flow, i.e., at least six coupled, and highy non-linear partial differential equations. New numerical methods can be designed to ensure high efficiency and accuracy at the same time while still formally fulfilling fundamental physical principles such as mass and energy conservation.

The Inter-hemispheric Oscillation

It has been found that there is a fast (weekly - monthly time scale) communication between the surface pressure and thereby wind conditions near the two poles. This is called the Inter-hemispheric Oscillation (IHO). This project will investigate the IHO further with special emphasis on the role in forcing the Southern Ocean on time scales from months to millennia. The possible role in the bi-polar seesaw should be considered.

Collaboration with DMI

Through our close collaboration with  DMI, we can present yet another series of potential projects for your inspiration. These projects must be carried out with the aid of an NBI - internal supervisor as well. Note that Peter Lang Langen and Jens Hesselbjerg at DMI can act as the only supervisor, as they are adjunct professors here at NBI. You´ll find descriptions of the projects in the link to the right.