The response of Arctic ice masses to climate change is studied using ice cores containing information on past climatic and environmental features. Interpretation of this information requires accurate chronological data. Absolute dating of ice cores from sub-polar Arctic glaciers is possible using well-known radioactive layers deposited by atmospheric nuclear tests (maximum fallout in 1963) and the Chernobyl accident (1986). Analysis of several isotopes (3H, 137Cs) shows that 3H provides the most accurate dating of the 1963 maximum, as indicated also in comparison with results from total-beta measurements (90Sr and 137Cs). Mean annual net mass balances are derived from the dated ice cores from 1963 up to the date of the drillings. The 137Cs and 3H deposited by nuclear tests, after decay correction, are used to define a melt index for all 13 ice cores studied. The relative strength of melting and percolation post-depositional processes is studied on the basis of these 137Cs and 3H deposits.