Single-Course English 5 ECTS

Cryosphere physics and observation

Overall Course Objectives

The cryosphere is the part of the Earth’s surface covered by snow or ice. The cryosphere is sensitive to changes in the climate, and in recent years an increased mass loss of the large ice sheets and a decrease in the sea ice cover have been observed.

This course aims to teach students about the physics of ice sheets, glaciers and sea ice and the geodetic methods for monitoring the cryosphere from satellites and aeroplanes.

The focus will be on the use of different data sets relevant to monitoring the cryosphere and on the geophysical interpretation of the data and its connection to the global climate system.

Learning Objectives

  • describe the basic physics of ice
  • identify the most important feedback mechanisms between the cryosphere and the climate system
  • perform a geophysical or climatic interpretation of a relevant data set
  • select a relevant data set (amongst e.g., gravimetry, altimetry, GNSS) for monitoring of a given cryosphere phenomenon
  • run simple glacier and sea ice models and analyse the model output
  • analyse gravimetry data from the GRACE satellites and use these to estimate the mass loss of the Antarctic ice sheet
  • debate how geodynamics can influence different types of measurements
  • characterize the individual contributions to the mass balance of ice sheets and sea ice, and outline how these can be estimated from data and models
  • evaluate model results of e.g. post-glacial rebound and estimate the uncertainty of such models
  • present a scientific topic.

Course Content

Geodetic methods for monitoring the ice sheets and sea ice from satellites and aeroplanes. Physics of ice sheets and sea ice (ice motion and properties of snow and ice). Feedback mechanisms between the cryosphere and the climate system.

Specific topics:
• Mass balance, zones of an ice sheet/glacier
• Sea ice drift, type, and thickness
• Meltwater on sea ice and ice sheets
• Post-glacial rebound, geodynamics
• Firn, compaction, refreezing.

Recommended prerequisites


Teaching Method

Lectures and data processing


See course in the course database.





13 weeks




DTU Lyngby Campus

Course code 30752
Course type Candidate
Semester start Week 35
Semester end Week 48
Days Wed 13-17

7.500,00 DKK