The story of our planet's climate is recorded in ice over 800,000 years. The ice, over Lake Vostok in Antarctica, is 3 kilometers deep. A core sample of this mighty sheet of ice produces important geophysics data. With Ice Core Walk, you can take an audio tour and virtually walk down the data along the ice core. Listen how the climate changed in the distant past, and how dramatically it changes now. Each step equals hundreds of years... Go!

Get the Audio Tour

Pick a path to walk for about 3 km or half an hour, and press play to begin the audio tour.

You will have walked the full length of the Vostok Ice Core, and hear the stories of major geophysical events. Each step of your walk equals about 200 years. At the very end of the walk, you will reach the present and its dramatically increasing CO2 and Temperature levels. Please share your trip with photos and #icecorewalk.

The Production Team

The project was initiated as part of a collaboration between Chris Chafe and Philippe Tortell, supported by the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies,UBC. Together, they assembled ice core data from many different soiurces. This fundamental data was sonified by Chris Chafe at Stanford University. Liz Carlisle, Greg Niemeyer, Chris Chafe, and George Hilley created the walkable experience of the Ice Core Walk with stories contributed by Hannah Black, Liz Carlisle, Emma Hutchinson, and Ashley Overbeek, all also at Stanford University. Greg Niemeyer and Mike Ghaussy, UC Berkeley maintain this web page.


The Bay Area's public radio station, KQED, presented a story and asonification of ice core data with Chris Chafe.
The Berkeley Center for New Media presented an overview of the #icecorewalk project.


Here's a link to the .wav file of the audio tour.

A link to a repository of a subsample of the Vostok Climate Data is here. This subsample was used to generate the title chart.

sinkhole concert venue

In Bergen, Norway, a circular 3 km path around Store Lungegårdsvann is the host site for #icecorewalk. The poster marking the starting point is available as a pdf download.

Get the App

The free iTunes ShoMe app allows you to set a start point and an end point for your walk. The ShoMe app tracks your position and plays segments of the audio tour exactly synched to your walk.

The Vostok Ice Core

Vostok in East Antarctica is probably not the coldest place on Earth, but it’s close. The Russian research base there observed the lowest reliably documented natural temperature ever at Earth’s surface: −89.2°C or −128.6°F. Snow accumulates very slowly there, and an ice core contains a long, accurate record of the temperature at Vostok, and of the atmospheric composition, because air bubbles trapped in the ice are little samples of the old atmosphere. Several long ice-core records have been collected in Antarctica, with the longest continuous one about 800,000 years.
The temperature record, from the isotopic composition of the ice, shows what happened in the Vostok region, not the whole world. However, the whole world cooled and warmed together because of ice age cycles and global warming, because of changes in sun exposure and CO2.
The ice ages were caused by features of Earth’s orbit. The spacing between ice ages actually was predicted decades before it was measured accurately, based on astronomical calculations from the orbits. The ice age story is wonderfully complicated but can be made fairly simple. When the amount of summer sun dropped in the north over thousands of years, ice grew, forming vast ice sheets that have bulldozed across Scandinavia, Boston, New York and Chicago. (Antarctica is already glaciated, and it doesn’t really get cold enough to get ice onto Australia, Africa, or most of South America, so sunshine in the south isn’t so important). The ice sheets were made from water from the ocean, which dropped more than 100 m (about 400 feet). Many other changes occurred as the ice grew, and these shifted some CO2 into the ocean. The whole world cooled, including places getting more sunshine. With more sunshine in the far north, this process was reversed. For a full scientific discussion of ice cores, visit Science Magazine

Donate to the Project

If you enjoyed your walking experience, please consider donating to the Ice Core Walk team. All proceeds support project maintenance and development.