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From icebergs to frazil ice

What is Earth's cryosphere and its significance?

The course provides a general and gentle introduction to the Earth's cryosphere: ice and snow, the solid forms of water. It aims to be practical with field and laboratory exercises, but also to teach theoretical principles and give tools, which assist students to gain more advanced knowledge on the topic, if desired.

After the course students are able to:
1. Explain the general characteristics of snow and ice, their similarities and differences.
2. Resolve mathematically physical problems related to snow and ice.
3. Describe how the snow and ice interact with the other components of hydrosphere, amosphere, and with the entire climate system.
4. Address questions as: how important are snow and ice to ecosystems and the society; what is the future of snow and ice?

Lecture topics briefly and flexibly:
1. Introduction and practicalities (at the 1st lecture)
2 . Ice (two lectures)
3. Snow (two lectures)
4. Lake and river ice (two lectures)
5. Sea ice (two lectures)
6. Frozen ground (one lecture)
7. Glaciers (two lectures)
8. Q & A (at the last lecture).

The idea is that everything does not need to be taught, but the focus can be on those subjects that the class thinks are the most important for them.



Here is the course’s teaching schedule. Check the description for possible other schedules.

Tue 15.1.2019
14:15 - 16:00
Wed 16.1.2019
12:15 - 14:00
Tue 22.1.2019
14:15 - 16:00
Wed 23.1.2019
12:15 - 14:00
Tue 29.1.2019
14:15 - 16:00
Wed 30.1.2019
12:15 - 14:00
Tue 5.2.2019
14:15 - 16:00
Wed 6.2.2019
12:15 - 14:00
Tue 12.2.2019
14:15 - 16:00
Wed 13.2.2019
12:15 - 14:00
Tue 19.2.2019
14:15 - 16:00
Wed 20.2.2019
12:15 - 14:00
Tue 26.2.2019
14:15 - 16:00
Wed 27.2.2019
12:15 - 14:00


Course lecture notes:
M. Leppäranta and Arttu Jutila: Geophysics of snow and ice (at the Moodle course page for enrolled students only)

Additional reading:
- S. Colbeck, ed. (1980): Dynamics of snow and ice masses, Academic Press
- W. Paterson (1994): Glaciology, 4th ed., Pergamon Press
- E. Pounder (1965): Physics of ice, Pergamon Press
- M. Leppäranta (2015): Freezing lakes and the evolution of their ice cover. Springer.
- P. Wadhams (2000) Ice in the ocean. Gordon & Breach Science, Amsterdam.

Conduct of the course

The course code of conduct generally follows


Master’s Programme in Atmospheric Sciences is responsible for the course.

Module where the course belongs to:

  • ATM300 Advanced Studies in Atmospheric Sciences
    Compulsory for:
    1. Study Track in Geophysics of the Hydrosphere

The course is available to students from other degree programmes.

At the end the students have basic knowledge of physical properties of snow and ice, and they can explain the significance of snow and ice to other fields of geophysics, atmospheric sciences and climate.

Recommended time for completion is 2nd or 3rd year, no specific course requirements in advance.

The course is offered in spring term Period III (January-February).

The course covers the physics of the world's cryosphere. It begins from the structure of ice crystal and properties of Ice Ih, which is the form of ice in Earth's nature. Then different ice and snow fields are introduced: snow, glaciers and ice sheets, lake and river ice, sea ice, and ice in ground. The course also makes a two-day field exercise in Lammi biological station to learn field techniques.


  1. Introduction
  2. Structure and properties of Ice Ih
  3. Seasonal snow cover
  4. Glaciers and ice sheets
  5. Frozen ground
  6. Lake ice and river ice
  7. Sea ice

The course consists of lectures, written and field exercises. At least 1/3 of the exercises must be completed. The field exercise is can be compensated by laboratory work and report. A written exam is organised after the course.

See the courses page at for details.

The course code of conduct generally follows The grade (1-5) is based on the final exam and exercises.