Noble gases as proxies of mean ocean temperature: sensitivity studies using a climate model of reduced complexity

Ritz, SP, Stocker TF, Severinghaus JP.  2011.  Noble gases as proxies of mean ocean temperature: sensitivity studies using a climate model of reduced complexity. Quaternary Science Reviews. 30:3728-3741.

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argon, atlantic, cycle, foraminiferal mg/ca, krypton, Mean ocean temperature, membrane-lipids, nitrogen-fixation, noble gas, Paleoclimatic, proxy, records, sea-level, seawater, solubility, Water temperature, Xenon


Past global mean ocean temperature may be reconstructed from measurements of atmospheric noble gas concentrations in ice core bubbles. Assuming conservation of noble gases in the atmosphere-ocean system, the total concentration within the ocean mostly depends on solubility which itself is temperature dependent. Therefore, the colder the ocean, the more gas can be dissolved and the less remains in the atmosphere. Here, the characteristics of this novel paleoclimatic proxy are explored by implementing krypton, xenon, argon, and N(2) into a reduced-complexity climate model. The relationship between noble gas concentrations and global mean ocean temperature is investigated and their sensitivities to changes in ocean volume, ocean salinity, sea-level pressure and geothermal heat flux are quantified. We conclude that atmospheric noble gas concentrations are suitable proxies of global mean ocean temperature. Changes in ocean volume need to be considered when reconstructing ocean temperatures from noble gases. Calibration curves are provided to translate ice-core measurements of krypton, xenon, and argon into a global mean ocean temperature change. Simulated noble gas-to-nitrogen ratios for the last glacial maximum are delta Kr(atm) = -1.10 parts per thousand, delta Xe(atm) = -3.25 parts per thousand, and delta Ar(atm) = -0.29 parts per thousand. The uncertainty of the krypton calibration curve due to uncertainties of the ocean saturation concentrations is estimated to be +/- 0.3 degrees C. An additional 0.3 C uncertainty must be added for the last deglaciation and up to +/- 0.4 degrees C for earlier transitions due to age-scale uncertainties in the sea-level reconstructions. Finally, the fingerprint of idealized Dansgaard-Oeschger events in the atmospheric krypton-to-nitrogen ratio is presented. A delta Kr(atm) change of up to 0.34 parts per thousand is simulated for a 2 kyr Dansgaard-Oeschger event, and a change of up to 0.48 parts per thousand is simulated for a 4 kyr event. (C) 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.