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Geophysicist wins Carlsberg Foundation prize

Names — Glaciologist and geophysicist Dorthe Dahl-Jensen has received an award from the Carlsberg Foundation for long-standing research into ice cores and climate.

Who is she?

Professor Dorthe Dahl-Jensen is a scientist at the Centre for Ice and Climate at the Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen. As a researcher, she has worked on ice cores in Greenland, the importance of freshwater for marine life, and the evolution of the Earth’s climate.

From 2007-2011, she led a team of researchers from 14 different countries on the international research project ‘North Greenland Eemian Drilling‘. Ice core samples from the project were subsequently used to reconstruct trends in the Earth’s climate which were published in the recognised journal Nature.

Dorthe Dahl-Jensen has just returned from two and a half months in East Greenland, where she worked on ‘The East Greenland Ice-Core Project‘ (EastGRIP). The research project examines how ice streams affect sea level change. This is studied through ice cores 2,650 metres below the ice of East Greenland.

»We haven’t been able to drill for two years, so we’ve spent a lot of time removing snow, because our camp was completely buried. We have reached a depth of 2,420 metres at the moment, and we expect to reach the bottom next year,« she says.

Why am I reading about her now?


Dorthe Dahl-Jensen (born 1958) is a glaciologist at the section for Ice, Climate and Geophysics at the Niels Bohr Institute. Her research area is ice core research, where she reconstructs the evolution of the Earth’s climate over many thousands of years. She has published more than 80 research articles and is currently working on a project in East Greenland.

On 31 August, Dorthe Dahl-Jensen received the Carlsberg Foundation’s DKK 1 million research prize. The award was presented by HRH Crown Princess Mary in front of Minister for Higher Education and Science Jesper Petersen, the president of the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters Marie Louise Nosch, and the Carlsberg Foundation’s chairwoman Majken Schultz at the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek.

»It’s a huge honour because it’s a recognition of my research group’s work. It’s a great prize to receive, as you are nominated by research colleagues from the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters,« says Dorthe Dahl-Jensen.

The award committee stated that Dorthe Dahl-Jensen got the prize for long-standing and groundbreaking work on the Arctic.

»Her dating of Greenland’s ice cores have revealed how the atmosphere has been affected by both human activities and natural events over the past 2,000 years, including the burning of trees, industrialization and volcanic eruptions,« the Carlsberg Foundation writes.

DKK 750,000 of the money is earmarked for research activities, while the remaining DKK 250,000 is a personal award.

»The research funding will go towards drilling a 700-metre-long ice core in Canada’s Arctic Ocean,« Dorthe Dahl-Jensen says about her next research project.

Where have I heard about this person before?

Since Dorthe Dahl-Jensen completed her PhD in 1988, her research into polar glaciology has garnered both international honours and awards. This includes the EU’s Descartes Prize (2008), the Louis Agassiz Medal from the European Geosciences Union (2014) and the Hans Egede Medal, which was presented by HM Queen Margrethe in May 2022. She is also a member of the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters.

Dorthe Dahl-Jensen was the first woman to be appointed professor of physics at the University of Copenhagen. If the surname Dahl-Jensen seems familiar, it is due to the fact that her sister Trine Dahl-Jensen is also in the world of research, within the field of earthquakes and seismology.

What should I do?

If you want to know more about climate evolution and ice cores, Dorthe Dahl-Jensen recommends visiting the EastGRIP website here, or the Centre for Ice and Climate website here.

»There is a lot of information about the climate, and what we can learn from looking back in time through ice cores. It is easily accessible and refers to articles if you have a deeper interest in the subject,« she says.

On the websites you can both familiarise yourself with current research and read log entries out from the field.