What is the ICE-D wiki?

This wiki is the documentation for the ICE-D database project, whose purpose is to organize and work with data having to do with Earth science applications of cosmogenic-nuclide geochemistry. If you know what that means, you're in the right place.

This wiki is likely to be under construction for the foreseeable future. If you would like to contribute to any aspect of it, contact Greg Balco or Joe Tulenko.

If you are interested in contributing to any part of the ICE-D project, contact Greg Balco, Joe Tulenko, or Ben Laabs.

What is the ICE-D project?

The ICE-D (Informal Cosmogenic-nuclide Exposure-age Database) project is a software system for cosmogenic-nuclide geochronology that is intended to address an inherent property of many geochronological methods which is either a bug or a feature, depending on how you look at it.

This property is that one almost never actually measures the age of a geological sample – one measures some geochemical property that is related to the age. To turn the actual measurement into a geologically useful age involves a layer of calculations that can be quite complicated and also typically depend on a variety of independently measured data. As the ingredients for the calculation layer improve over time, the age that corresponds to the geochemical measurement changes.

Comparing geochronological data collected at different times or by different labs thus requires continually recalculating all of the ages from source observations with a consistent method. This is a serious headache for any Earth science application that aims to analyse a reasonably large set of geochronological data to learn about, e.g., paleoclimate, ice sheet change, or seismic hazards. The purpose of the ICE-D project is to deal with this obstacle by building a data management and analysis system that stores the raw geochemical observations and calculates ages, or other geologically useful results, dynamically when required for an analysis application.

A very comprehensive exposition of this idea can be found in a paper describing the software design, as well as in a proposal to the National Science Foundation to fund development of the system.

The project also has a Twitter feed, which mostly just randomly tweets links to pictures of remote places in Antarctica. Literally randomly – that is not just a filler word like 'whatever.'

Update: the Twitter feed doesn't seem to work any more. Twitter seems to have made it impossible for the program that tweets random samples/locations to authenticate. So probably goodbye to Twitter.

A description of how the project got started and how it is supported can be found here.

ICE-D focus areas

Although the point of the ICE-D project is to assemble any and all cosmogenic-nuclide data, we make this project more manageable by structuring it around a set of specific Earth science applications. Assembling all the data needed for focused science applications one at a time makes it possible to go from zero to useful a lot faster than trying to do the whole world at once. Some examples are the ICE-D:ANTARCTICA, ICE-D:ALPINE, and ICE-D:GREENLAND databases.

Transparent Middle Layer infrastructure

Look here for more of an explanation of what this means, followed by technical details of what the major components are and how they work.

How to use the ICE-D infrastructure

Documentation on how to connect to the various components and use them to obtain data, compute geologically useful quantities such as exposure or burial ages, and incorporate data and downstream calculations into analysis or visualization.

Science applications

The point of the project is to enable synoptic applications of large amounts of cosmogenic-nuclide data.

Look here for some examples in publications, meeting abstracts, and other outlets.

Look here for some DIY examples with code and (possibly terrible) documentation.

ICE-D workshop program

One of the goals of this project is to implement a 'users-as-developers' model for project sustainability. What does this mean? It means the people who are actually using the project have enough knowledge of the technical details to maintain and build databases and tools. The path to implementing this is a workshop program aimed at teaching users how the system works, building new components of the project, and figuring out how to use the project infrastructure for geoscience applications. Look here for workshop plans, schedules, and materials. This is a critically important part of the project and we hope we can get nearly everyone who is involved in synoptic applications of cosmogenic-nuclide data to at least one of the workshops sometime.

ICE-D side projects

Related projects that attempt to implement the transparent-middle-layer architecture, but aren't part of the core infrastructure.

Project principles, rules, policies, and philosophies

The main principle is to try not to have a lot of rules and policies. Does this count as a philosophy? Anyway, there is more information here.


The ICE-D project relies on a worldwide community of contributors and users. Look here to see who is involved, what they're doing, and how you can contribute.