At Summit Camp in Greenland, the depth is 77 m and the ice is 230 years old; at Dome C in Antarctica the depth is 95 m and the age 2500 years.
As further layers build up, the pressure increases, and at about 1500 m the crystal structure of the ice changes from hexagonal to cubic, allowing air molecules to move into the cubic crystals and form a clathrate.
The proportions of different oxygen and hydrogen isotopes provide information about ancient temperatures, and the air trapped in tiny bubbles can be analysed to determine the level of atmospheric gases such as carbon dioxide.
Since heat flow in a large ice sheet is very slow, the borehole temperature is another indicator of temperature in the past.
The physical properties of the ice and of material trapped in it can be used to reconstruct the climate over the age range of the core.
The bubbles disappear and the ice becomes more transparent.
The weight above makes deeper layers of ice thin and flow outwards.
Ice cores have been studied since the early 20th century, and several cores were drilled as a result of the International Geophysical Year (1957–1958).
Depths of over 400 m were reached, a record which was extended in the 1960s to 2164 m at Byrd Station in Antarctica.