Several suppressed and non-suppressed ion chromatography (IC) elution systems were compared for the determination of ngml-1 levels of major cations and anions, including formate and methyl sulphonate, in ice core samples using a small (0.2-0.8ml) sample volume. The use of a suppression unit considerably enhanced the sensitivity of the anion determinations, but had no remarkable effect on the sensitivity of the cation determinations. Optimized analytical conditions were further validated in terms of accuracy, precision and total uncertainty and the results showed the reliability of the IC methods. In addition, contamination problems associated with handling the ice core were investigated, and a simple and almost contamination free ice handling procedure is presented. Copyright (C) 1999 Elsevier Science B.V.