NICL was established in 1993 and is located at the Denver Federal Center in Lakewood, Colorado. NICL is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). NICL is housed administratively within the USGS, Office of the Regional Executive for Geology, Central Region, which is responsible for all operational aspects of the facility. The facility's most important responsibility is for the safe and secure storage and curation of ice cores that are collected primarily by NSF sponsored projects. The laboratory also provides the opportunity for scientists to examine ice cores without having to travel to remote field sites. The main archive freezer is 55,000 cubic feet in size and is held at a temperature of -36 degrees Celcius. A second room for examination of ice cores, held at -25 degrees Celcius, is 12,000 cubic feet in size and is contiguous with the archive area. There is also a Class-100 HEPA-filtered, cold clean room. NICL also maintains space outside the freezer facility for material fabrication, storage, changing areas, offices, and visiting scientist workspace. NICL currently stores over 17,000 meters of ice core collected from various locations in Antarctica, Greenland, and North America.
NICL is centrally located at the Denver Federal Center, just south of the intersection of Kipling and 6th Avenues in Lakewood, Colorado. The lab's proximity to major transportation corridors and to the Denver International Airport insures timely shipping and handling of ice cores arriving and departing the facility.
Scientific management of NICL is provided by the National Ice Core Laboratory - Science Management Office (NICL-SMO). NICL-SMO serves as the primary point of contact for scientists interested in access to ice cores stored at NICL and/or use of the NICL facility. NICL-SMO is located at the Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans and Space, at the University of New Hampshire. NICL-SMO, with direction from the Ice Core Working Group, oversees the scientific operations and activities at NICL.