Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

  • Letter
  • Published:

Measurement of the multi-TeV neutrino interaction cross-section with IceCube using Earth absorption

An Erratum to this article was published on 14 February 2018

This article has been updated


Neutrinos interact only very weakly, so they are extremely penetrating. The theoretical neutrino–nucleon interaction cross-section, however, increases with increasing neutrino energy, and neutrinos with energies above 40 teraelectronvolts (TeV) are expected to be absorbed as they pass through the Earth. Experimentally, the cross-section has been determined only at the relatively low energies (below 0.4 TeV) that are available at neutrino beams from accelerators1,2. Here we report a measurement of neutrino absorption by the Earth using a sample of 10,784 energetic upward-going neutrino-induced muons. The flux of high-energy neutrinos transiting long paths through the Earth is attenuated compared to a reference sample that follows shorter trajectories. Using a fit to the two-dimensional distribution of muon energy and zenith angle, we determine the neutrino–nucleon interaction cross-section for neutrino energies 6.3–980 TeV, more than an order of magnitude higher than previous measurements. The measured cross-section is about 1.3 times the prediction of the standard model3, consistent with the expectations for charged- and neutral-current interactions. We do not observe a large increase in the cross-section with neutrino energy, in contrast with the predictions of some theoretical models, including those invoking more compact spatial dimensions4 or the production of leptoquarks5. This cross-section measurement can be used to set limits on the existence of some hypothesized beyond-standard-model particles, including leptoquarks.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Buy this article

Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Figure 1: Neutrino cross-section measurements.
Figure 2: Neutrino absorption in the Earth.
Figure 3: Cross-section data compared with Monte Carlo model predictions.

Similar content being viewed by others

Change history

  • 14 February 2018

    Change history: Please see accompanying Erratum ( In this Letter, ‘HERA’ was wrongly expanded to ‘Hydrogen Epoch of Reionization Array’ instead of ‘Hadron-Electron Ring Accelerator’ on page 597. In addition, some author affiliations were wrongly assigned. The original Letter has been corrected online.


  1. Olive, K. A. et al. Review of particle physics. Chin. Phys. C 38, 090001 (2014)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  2. Formaggio, J. A. & Zeller, G. P. From eV to EeV: neutrino cross sections across energy scales. Rev. Mod. Phys. 84, 1307–1341 (2012)

    Article  CAS  ADS  Google Scholar 

  3. Cooper-Sarkar, A., Mertsch, P. & Sarkar, S. The high energy neutrino cross-section in the Standard Model and its uncertainty. J. High Energy Phys. 2011, 42 (2011)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  4. Alvarez-Muñiz, J., Feng, J. L., Halzen, F., Han, T. & Hooper, D. Detecting microscopic black holes with neutrino telescopes. Phys. Rev. D 65, 124015 (2002)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  5. Romero, I. & Sampayo, O. A. Leptoquarks signals in KM3 neutrino telescopes. J. High Energy Phys. 2009, 111 (2009)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Sutton, C. Spaceship Neutrino (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1992)

  7. Connolly, A., Thorne, R. S. & Waters, D. Calculation of high energy neutrino–nucleon cross sections and uncertainties using the Martin–Stirling–Thorne–Watt parton distribution functions and implications for future experiments. Phys. Rev. D 83, 113009 (2011)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  8. IceCube Collaboration. A combined maximum-likelihood analysis of the high-energy astrophysical neutrino flux measured with IceCube. Astrophys. J. 809, 98 (2015)

  9. Miarecki, S. C. Earth versus Neutrinos: Measuring the Total Muon-Neutrino-to-Nucleon Cross Section at Ultra-high Energies through Differential Earth Absorption of Muon Neutrinos from Cosmic Rays using the IceCube Detector. PhD thesis, Univ. California, Berkeley (2016)

  10. Volkova, L. V. & Zatsepin, G. T. Passage of neutrinos through the Earth. Bull. Acad. Sci. USSR Phys. Ser. 38, 151–154 (1974); translated from Izv. Akad. Nauk SSSR, Ser. fiz. 38, 1060–1063 (1974)

    Google Scholar 

  11. Wilson, T. L. Neutrino tomography: tevatron mapping versus the neutrino sky. Nature 309, 38–42 (1984)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  12. Dziewonski, A. M. & Anderson, D. L. Preliminary reference Earth model. Phys. Earth Planet. Inter. 25, 297–356 (1981)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  13. Kennett, B. L. N. On the density distribution within the Earth. Geophys. J. Int. 132, 374–382 (1998)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  14. Masters, G. & Gubbins, D. On the resolution of density within the Earth. Phys. Earth Planet. Inter. 140, 159–167 (2003)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  15. de Wit, R. W. L., Käufl, P. J., Valentine, A. P. & Trampert, J. Bayesian inversion of free oscillations for Earth’s radial (an)elastic structure. Phys. Earth Planet. Inter. 237, 1–17 (2014)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  16. Dumand Collaboration. Mapping the Earth’s interior with astrophysical neutrinos. In 24th International Cosmic Ray Conference Vol. 1 (eds Iucci, N. & Lamanna, E. ) 804–807 (IUPAP, 1995)

    Google Scholar 

  17. Gonzalez-Garcia, M. C., Halzen, F., Maltoni, M. & Tanaka, H. K. M. Radiography of Earth’s core and mantle with atmospheric neutrinos. Phys. Rev. Lett. 100, 061802 (2008)

    Article  CAS  ADS  Google Scholar 

  18. IceCube Collaboration. The IceCube neutrino observatory: instrumentation and online systems. J. Instrum. 12, P03012 (2017)

  19. Halzen, F. & Klein, S. R. IceCube: an instrument for neutrino astronomy. Rev. Sci. Instrum. 81, 081101 (2010)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  20. IceCube Collaboration. The IceCube data acquisition system: signal capture, digitization, and timestamping. Nucl. Instrum. Meth. A 601, 294–316 (2009)

  21. IceCube Collaboration. Evidence for astrophysical muon neutrinos from the northern sky with IceCube. Phys. Rev. Lett. 115, 081102 (2015)

  22. Weaver, C. Evidence for Astrophysical Muon Neutrinos from the Northern Sky. PhD thesis, Univ. Wisconsin (2015)

  23. IceCube Collaboration. An improved method for measuring muon energy using the truncated mean of dE/dx. Nucl. Instrum. Meth. A 703, 190–198 (2013)

  24. MINERvA Collaboration. Measurement of partonic nuclear effects in deep-inelastic neutrino scattering using MINERvA. Phys. Rev. D 93, 071101 (2016)

  25. WA25 and WA59 Collaborations. An investigation of the EMC effect using anti-neutrinos interactions in deuterium and neon. Phys. Lett. 141, 133–139 (1984)

  26. Eskola, K. J., Paakkinen, P., Paukkunen, H. & Salgado, C. A. EPPS16: nuclear parton distributions with LHC data. Eur. Phys. J. C 77, 163 (2017)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  27. Honda, M., Kajita, T., Kasahara, K., Midorikawa, S. & Sanuki, T. Calculation of atmospheric neutrino flux using the interaction model calibrated with atmospheric muon data. Phys. Rev. D 75, 043006 (2007)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  28. Enberg, R., Reno, M. H. & Sarcevic, I. High energy neutrinos from charm in astrophysical sources. Phys. Rev. D 79, 053006 (2009)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  29. IceCube Collaboration. Observation and characterization of a cosmic muon neutrino flux from the northern hemisphere using six years of IceCube data. Astrophys. J. 833, 3 (2016)

  30. Bhattacharya, A., Enberg, R., Reno, M. H., Sarcevic, I. & Stasto, A. Perturbative charm production and the prompt atmospheric neutrino flux in light of RHIC and LHC. J. High Energy Phys. 1506, 110 (2015)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  31. Garzelli, M. V., Moch, S. & Sigl, G. Lepton fluxes from atmospheric charm revisited. J. High Energy Phys. 1510, 115 (2015)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  32. Gauld, R., Rojo, J., Rottoli, L., Sarkar, S. & Talbert, J. The prompt atmospheric neutrino flux in the light of LHCb. J. High Energy Phys. 1602, 130 (2016)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  33. IceCube-Gen2 Collaboration. IceCube-Gen2: a vision for the future of neutrino astronomy in Antarctica. Preprint at (2014)

  34. KM3Net Collaboration. Letter of intent for KM3NeT 2.0. J. Phys. G 43, 084001 (2016)

  35. ARIANNA Collaboration. A first search for cosmogenic neutrinos with the ARIANNA hexagonal radio array. Astropart. Phys. 70, 12 (2015)

  36. ARA Collaboration. Performance of two Askaryan Radio Array stations and first results in the search for ultrahigh energy neutrinos. Phys. Rev. D 93, 082003 (2016)

  37. Klein, S. R. & Connolly, A. Neutrino absorption in the Earth, neutrino cross-sections, and new physics. Preprint at (2013)

Download references


We acknowledge support from the following agencies: United States Air Force Academy, US National Science Foundation, Office of Polar Programs; US National Science Foundation, Physics Division; University of Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation; the Grid Laboratory of Wisconsin (GLOW) grid infrastructure at the University of Wisconsin, Madison; the Open Science Grid (OSG) grid infrastructure; US Department of Energy; National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center; the Louisiana Optical Network Initiative (LONI) grid computing resources; Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada; WestGrid and Compute/Calcul Canada; Swedish Research Council; Swedish Polar Research Secretariat; Swedish National Infrastructure for Computing (SNIC); Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation; German Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF); Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG); Helmholtz Alliance for Astroparticle Physics (HAP); Initiative and Networking Fund of the Helmholtz Association, Germany; Fund for Scientific Research (FNRS-FWO), FWO Odysseus programme, Flanders Institute to encourage scientific and technological research in industry (IWT), Belgian Federal Science Policy Office (BELSPO); Marsden Fund; Australian Research Council; Japan Society for Promotion of Science (JSPS); Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF); National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF); Villum Fonden, Danish National Research Foundation (DNRF).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



The IceCube neutrino observatory was designed and constructed by the IceCube Collaboration and the IceCube Project, which continues to operate it. Data processing and calibration, Monte Carlo simulations of the detector and of theoretical models, and data analyses were performed by a large number of IceCube Collaboration members, who also discussed and approved the scientific results. The analysis presented here was performed by S.Mi. with input from G.B. The paper was written by S.Mi., G.B. and S.R.K. and reviewed by the collaboration. All authors approved the final version of the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to S. R. Klein.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The author declare no competing financial interests.

Additional information

Reviewer Information Nature thanks A. De Gouvea and the other anonymous reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

Publisher's note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

PowerPoint slides

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

The IceCube Collaboration. Measurement of the multi-TeV neutrino interaction cross-section with IceCube using Earth absorption. Nature 551, 596–600 (2017).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing