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2019
Mühle, J, Trudinger CM, Western LM, Rigby M, Vollmer MK, Park S, Manning AJ, Say D, Ganesan A, Steele LP, Ivy DJ, Arnold T, Li S, Stohl A, Harth CM, Salameh PK, McCulloch A, O'Doherty S, Park MK, Jo CO, Young D, Stanley KM, Krummel PB, Mitrevski B, Hermansen O, Lunder C, Evangeliou N, Yao B, Kim J, Hmiel B, Buizert C, Petrenko VV, Arduini J, Maione M, Etheridge DM, Michalopoulou E, Czerniak M, Severinghaus JP, Reimann S, Simmonds PG, Fraser PJ, Prinn RG, Weiss RF.  2019.  Perfluorocyclobutane (PFC-318, c-C4F8) in the global atmosphere. Atmos. Chem. Phys.. 19:10335-10359.: Copernicus Publications   10.5194/acp-19-10335-2019   Abstract

We reconstruct atmospheric abundances of the potent greenhouse gas c-C4F8 (perfluorocyclobutane, perfluorocarbon PFC-318) from measurements of in situ, archived, firn, and aircraft air samples with precisions of ∼1 %–2 % reported on the SIO-14 gravimetric calibration scale. Combined with inverse methods, we found near-zero atmospheric abundances from the early 1900s to the early 1960s, after which they rose sharply, reaching 1.66 ppt (parts per trillion dry-air mole fraction) in 2017. Global c-C4F8 emissions rose from near zero in the 1960s to 1.2±0.1 (1σ) Gg yr−1 in the late 1970s to late 1980s, then declined to 0.77±0.03 Gg yr−1 in the mid-1990s to early 2000s, followed by a rise since the early 2000s to 2.20±0.05 Gg yr−1 in 2017. These emissions are significantly larger than inventory-based emission estimates. Estimated emissions from eastern Asia rose from 0.36 Gg yr−1 in 2010 to 0.73 Gg yr−1 in 2016 and 2017, 31 % of global emissions, mostly from eastern China. We estimate emissions of 0.14 Gg yr−1 from northern and central India in 2016 and find evidence for significant emissions from Russia. In contrast, recent emissions from northwestern Europe and Australia are estimated to be small (≤1 % each). We suggest that emissions from China, India, and Russia are likely related to production of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE, “Teflon”) and other fluoropolymers and fluorochemicals that are based on the pyrolysis of hydrochlorofluorocarbon HCFC-22 (CHClF2) in which c-C4F8 is a known by-product. The semiconductor sector, where c-C4F8 is used, is estimated to be a small source, at least in South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and Europe. Without an obvious correlation with population density, incineration of waste-containing fluoropolymers is probably a minor source, and we find no evidence of emissions from electrolytic production of aluminum in Australia. While many possible emissive uses of c-C4F8 are known and though we cannot categorically exclude unknown sources, the start of significant emissions may well be related to the advent of commercial PTFE production in 1947. Process controls or abatement to reduce the c-C4F8 by-product were probably not in place in the early decades, explaining the increase in emissions in the 1960s and 1970s. With the advent of by-product reporting requirements to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in the 1990s, concern about climate change and product stewardship, abatement, and perhaps the collection of c-C4F8 by-product for use in the semiconductor industry where it can be easily abated, it is conceivable that emissions in developed countries were stabilized and then reduced, explaining the observed emission reduction in the 1980s and 1990s. Concurrently, production of PTFE in China began to increase rapidly. Without emission reduction requirements, it is plausible that global emissions today are dominated by China and other developing countries. We predict that c-C4F8 emissions will continue to rise and that c-C4F8 will become the second most important emitted PFC in terms of CO2-equivalent emissions within a year or two. The 2017 radiative forcing of c-C4F8 (0.52 mW m−2) is small but emissions of c-C4F8 and other PFCs, due to their very long atmospheric lifetimes, essentially permanently alter Earth's radiative budget and should be reduced. Significant emissions inferred outside of the investigated regions clearly show that observational capabilities and reporting requirements need to be improved to understand global and country-scale emissions of PFCs and other synthetic greenhouse gases and ozone-depleting substances.

2017
Seltzer, AM, Buizert C, Baggenstos D, Brook EJ, Ahn J, Yang JW, Severinghaus JP.  2017.  Does delta O-18 of O-2 record meridional shifts in tropical rainfall? Climate of the Past. 13:1323-1338.   10.5194/cp-13-1323-2017   AbstractWebsite

Marine sediments, speleothems, paleo-lake elevations, and ice core methane and delta O-18 of O-2 (delta O-18(atm)) records provide ample evidence for repeated abrupt meridional shifts in tropical rainfall belts throughout the last glacial cycle. To improve understanding of the impact of abrupt events on the global terrestrial biosphere, we present composite records of delta O-18(atm) and inferred changes in fractionation by the global terrestrial biosphere (Delta epsilon(LAND)) from discrete gas measurements in the WAIS Divide (WD) and Siple Dome (SD) Antarctic ice cores. On the common WD timescale, it is evident that maxima in Delta epsilon(LAND) are synchronous with or shortly follow small-amplitude WD CH4 peaks that occur within Heinrich stadials 1, 2, 4, and 5 - periods of low atmospheric CH4 concentrations. These local CH4 maxima have been suggested as markers of abrupt climate responses to Heinrich events. Based on our analysis of the modern seasonal cycle of gross primary productivity (GPP)-weighted delta(OatmO)-O-18 of terrestrial precipitation (the source water for atmospheric O-2 production), we propose a simple mechanism by which Delta epsilon(LAND) tracks the centroid latitude of terrestrial oxygen production. As intense rainfall and oxygen production migrate northward, Delta epsilon(LAND) should decrease due to the underlying meridional gradient in rainfall delta O-18. A southward shift should increase Delta epsilon(LAND). Monsoon intensity also influences delta O-18 of precipitation, and although we cannot determine the relative contributions of the two mechanisms, both act in the same direction. Therefore, we suggest that abrupt increases in Delta epsilon(LAND) unambiguously imply a southward shift of tropical rainfall. The exact magnitude of this shift, however, remains under-constrained by Delta epsilon(LAND).

McConnell, JR, Burke A, Dunbar NW, Kohler P, Thomas JL, Arienzo MM, Chellman NJ, Maselli OJ, Sigl M, Adkins JF, Baggenstos D, Burkhart JF, Brook EJ, Buizert C, Cole-Dai J, Fudge TJ, Knorr G, Graf HF, Grieman MM, Iverson N, McGwire KC, Mulvaney R, Paris G, Rhodes RH, Saltzman ES, Severinghaus JP, Steffensen JP, Taylor KC, Winckler G.  2017.  Synchronous volcanic eruptions and abrupt climate change similar to 17.7 ka plausibly linked by stratospheric ozone depletion. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 114:10035-10040.   10.1073/pnas.1705595114   AbstractWebsite

Glacial-state greenhouse gas concentrations and Southern Hemisphere climate conditions persisted until similar to 17.7 ka, when a nearly synchronous acceleration in deglaciation was recorded in paleoclimate proxies in large parts of the Southern Hemisphere, with many changes ascribed to a sudden poleward shift in the Southern Hemisphere westerlies and subsequent climate impacts. We used high-resolution chemical measurements in the West Antarctic Ice Sheet Divide, Byrd, and other ice cores to document a unique, similar to 192-y series of halogen-rich volcanic eruptions exactly at the start of accelerated deglaciation, with tephra identifying the nearby Mount Takahe volcano as the source. Extensive fallout from these massive eruptions has been found >2,800 km from Mount Takahe. Sulfur isotope anomalies and marked decreases in ice core bromine consistent with increased surface UV radiation indicate that the eruptions led to stratospheric ozone depletion. Rather than a highly improbable coincidence, circulation and climate changes extending from the Antarctic Peninsula to the subtropics-similar to those associated with modern stratospheric ozone depletion over Antarctica-plausibly link the Mount Takahe eruptions to the onset of accelerated Southern Hemisphere deglaciation similar to 17.7 ka.

Seltzer, AM, Severinghaus JP, Andraski BJ, Stonestrom DA.  2017.  Steady state fractionation of heavy noble gas isotopes in a deep unsaturated zone. Water Resources Research. 53:2716-2732.   10.1002/2016WR019655   AbstractWebsite

To explore steady state fractionation processes in the unsaturated zone (UZ), we measured argon, krypton, and xenon isotope ratios throughout a ∼110 m deep UZ at the United States Geological Survey (USGS) Amargosa Desert Research Site (ADRS) in Nevada, USA. Prior work has suggested that gravitational settling should create a nearly linear increase in heavy-to-light isotope ratios toward the bottom of stagnant air columns in porous media. Our high-precision measurements revealed a binary mixture between (1) expected steady state isotopic compositions and (2) unfractionated atmospheric air. We hypothesize that the presence of an unsealed pipe connecting the surface to the water table allowed for direct inflow of surface air in response to extensive UZ gas sampling prior to our first (2015) measurements. Observed isotopic resettling in deep UZ samples collected a year later, after sealing the pipe, supports this interpretation. Data and modeling each suggest that the strong influence of gravitational settling and weaker influences of thermal diffusion and fluxes of CO2 and water vapor accurately describe steady state isotopic fractionation of argon, krypton, and xenon within the UZ. The data confirm that heavy noble gas isotopes are sensitive indicators of UZ depth. Based on this finding, we outline a potential inverse approach to quantify past water table depths from noble gas isotope measurements in paleogroundwater, after accounting for fractionation during dissolution of UZ air and bubbles.

2016
Cuffey, KM, Clow GD, Steig EJ, Buizert C, Fudge TJ, Koutnik M, Waddington ED, Alley RB, Severinghaus JP.  2016.  Deglacial temperature history of West Antarctica. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 113:14249-14254.   10.1073/pnas.1609132113   AbstractWebsite

The most recent glacial to interglacial transition constitutes a remarkable natural experiment for learning how Earth's climate responds to various forcings, including a rise in atmospheric CO2. This transition has left a direct thermal remnant in the polar ice sheets, where the exceptional purity and continual accumulation of ice permit analyses not possible in other settings. For Antarctica, the deglacial warming has previously been constrained only by the water isotopic composition in ice cores, without an absolute thermometric assessment of the isotopes' sensitivity to temperature. To overcome this limitation, we measured temperatures in a deep borehole and analyzed them together with ice-core data to reconstruct the surface temperature history of West Antarctica. The deglacial warming was 11.3 +/- 1.8 degrees C, approximately two to three times the global average, in agreement with theoretical expectations for Antarctic amplification of planetary temperature changes. Consistent with evidence from glacier retreat in Southern Hemisphere mountain ranges, the Antarctic warming was mostly completed by 15 kyBP, several millennia earlier than in the Northern Hemisphere. These results constrain the role of variable oceanic heat transport between hemispheres during deglaciation and quantitatively bound the direct influence of global climate forcings on Antarctic temperature. Although climate models perform well on average in this context, some recent syntheses of deglacial climate history have underestimated Antarctic warming and the models with lowest sensitivity can be discounted.

2015
Orsi, AJ, Kawamura K, Fegyveresi JM, Headly MA, Alley RB, Severinghaus JP.  2015.  Differentiating bubble-free layers from melt layers in ice cores using noble gases. Journal of Glaciology. 61:585-594.   10.3189/2015JoG14J237   AbstractWebsite

Melt layers are clear indicators of extreme summer warmth on polar ice caps. The visual identification of refrozen meltwater as clear bubble-free layers cannot be used to study some past warm periods, because, in deeper ice, bubbles are lost to clathrate formation. We present here a reliable method to detect melt events, based on the analysis of Kr/Ar and Xe/Ar ratios in ice cores, and apply it to the detection of melt in clathrate ice from the Eemian at NEEM, Greenland. Additionally, melt layers in ice cores can compromise the integrity of the gas record by dissolving soluble gases, or by altering gas transport in the firn, which affects the gas chronology. We find that the easily visible 1 mm thick bubble-free layers in the WAIS Divide ice core do not contain sufficient melt to alter the gas composition in the core, and do not cause artifacts or discontinuities in the gas chronology. The presence of these layers during winter, and the absence of anomalies in soluble gases, suggests that these layers can be formed by processes other than refreezing of meltwater. Consequently, the absence of bubbles in thin crusts is not in itself proof of a melt event.

Buizert, C, Adrian B, Ahn J, Albert M, Alley RB, Baggenstos D, Bauska TK, Bay RC, Bencivengo BB, Bentley CR, Brook EJ, Chellman NJ, Clow GD, Cole-Dai J, Conway H, Cravens E, Cuffey KM, Dunbar NW, Edwards JS, Fegyveresi JM, Ferris DG, Fitzpatrick JJ, Fudge TJ, Gibson CJ, Gkinis V, Goetz JJ, Gregory S, Hargreaves GM, Iverson N, Johnson JA, Jones TR, Kalk ML, Kippenhan MJ, Koffman BG, Kreutz K, Kuhl TW, Lebar DA, Lee JE, Marcott SA, Markle BR, Maselli OJ, McConnell JR, McGwire KC, Mitchell LE, Mortensen NB, Neff PD, Nishiizumi K, Nunn RM, Orsi AJ, Pasteris DR, Pedro JB, Pettit EC, Price PB, Priscu JC, Rhodes RH, Rosen JL, Schauer AJ, Schoenemann SW, Sendelbach PJ, Severinghaus JP, Shturmakov AJ, Sigl M, Slawny KR, Souney JM, Sowers TA, Spencer MK, Steig EJ, Taylor KC, Twickler MS, Vaughn BH, Voigt DE, Waddington ED, Welten KC, Wendricks AW, White JWC, Winstrup M, Wong GJ, Woodruff TE, Members WDP.  2015.  Precise interpolar phasing of abrupt climate change during the last ice age. Nature. 520:661-U169.   10.1038/nature14401   AbstractWebsite

The last glacial period exhibited abrupt Dansgaard-Oeschger climatic oscillations, evidence of which is preserved in a variety of Northern Hemisphere palaeodimate archives'. Ice cores show that Antarctica cooled during the warm phases of the Greenland Dansgaard-Oeschger cycle and vice versa''', suggesting an interhemispheric redistribution of heat through a mechanism called the bipolar seesaw(4-6). Variations in the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) strength are thought to have been important, but much uncertainty remains regarding the dynamics and trigger of these abrupt events'. Key information is contained in the relative phasing of hemispheric climate variations, yet the large, poorly constrained difference between gas age and ice age and the relatively low resolution of methane records from Antarctic ice cores have so far precluded methane-based synchronization at the required sub-centennial precision''''". Here we use a recently drilled high-accumulation Antarctic ice core to show that, on average, abrupt Greenland warming leads the corresponding Antarctic cooling onset by 218 +/- 92 years (2 sigma a) for DansgaardOeschger events, including the Bolling event; Greenland cooling leads the corresponding onset of Antarctic warming by 208 +/- 96 years. Our results demonstrate a north-to-south directionality of the abrupt climatic signal, which is propagated to the Southern Hemisphere high latitudes by oceanic rather than atmospheric processes. The similar interpolar phasing of warming and cooling transitions suggests that the transfer time of the climatic signal is independent of the AMOC background state. Our findings confirm a central role for ocean circulation in the bipolar seesaw and provide clear criteria for assessing hypotheses and model simulations of Dansgaard-Oeschger dynamics.

Mitchell, LE, Buizert C, Brook EJ, Breton DJ, Fegyveresi J, Baggenstos D, Orsi A, Severinghaus J, Alley RB, Albert M, Rhodes RH, McConnell JR, Sigl M, Maselli O, Gregory S, Ahn J.  2015.  Observing and modeling the influence of layering on bubble trapping in polar firn. Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres. 120:2558-2574.   10.1002/2014jd022766   AbstractWebsite

Interpretation of ice core trace gas records depends on an accurate understanding of the processes that smooth the atmospheric signal in the firn. Much work has been done to understand the processes affecting air transport in the open pores of the firn, but a paucity of data from air trapped in bubbles in the firn-ice transition region has limited the ability to constrain the effect of bubble closure processes. Here we present high-resolution measurements of firn density, methane concentrations, nitrogen isotopes, and total air content that show layering in the firn-ice transition region at the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) Divide ice core site. Using the notion that bubble trapping is a stochastic process, we derive a new parameterization for closed porosity that incorporates the effects of layering in a steady state firn modeling approach. We include the process of bubble trapping into an open-porosity firn air transport model and obtain a good fit to the firn core data. We find that layering broadens the depth range over which bubbles are trapped, widens the modeled gas age distribution of air in closed bubbles, reduces the mean gas age of air in closed bubbles, and introduces stratigraphic irregularities in the gas age scale that have a peak-to-peak variability of 10 years at WAIS Divide. For a more complete understanding of gas occlusion and its impact on ice core records, we suggest that this experiment be repeated at sites climatically different from WAIS Divide, for example, on the East Antarctic plateau.

2014
Seierstad, IK, Abbott PM, Bigler M, Blunier T, Bourne AJ, Brook E, Buchardt SL, Buizert C, Clausen HB, Cook E, Dahl-Jensen D, Davies SM, Guillevic M, Johnsen SJ, Pedersen DS, Popp TJ, Rasmussen SO, Severinghaus JP, Svensson A, Vinther BM.  2014.  Consistently dated records from the Greenland GRIP, GISP2 and NGRIP ice cores for the past 104 ka reveal regional millennial-scale delta O-18 gradients with possible Heinrich event imprint. Quaternary Science Reviews. 106:29-46.   10.1016/j.quascirev.2014.10.032   AbstractWebsite

We present a synchronization of the NGRIP, GRIP and GISP2 ice cores onto a master chronology extending back to 104 ka before present, providing a consistent chronological framework for these three Greenland records. The synchronization aligns distinct peaks in volcanic proxy records and other impurity records (chemo-stratigraphic matching) and assumes that these layers of elevated impurity content represent the same, instantaneous event in the past at all three sites. More than 900 marker horizons between the three cores have been identified and our matching is independently confirmed by 24 new and previously identified volcanic ash (tephra) tie-points. Using the reference horizons, we transfer the widely used Greenland ice-core chronology, GICC05modelext, to the two Summit cores, GRIP and GISP2. Furthermore, we provide gas chronologies for the Summit cores that are consistent with the GICC05modelext timescale by utilizing both existing and new gas data (CH4 concentration and delta N-15 of N-2). We infer that the accumulation contrast between the stadial and interstadial phases of the glacial period was -10% greater at Summit compared to at NGRIP. The delta O-18 temperature-proxy records from NGRIP, GRIP, and GISP2 are generally very similar and display synchronous behaviour at climate transitions. The 1180 differences between Summit and NGRIP, however, changed slowly over the Last Glacial Interglacial cycle and also underwent abrupt millennial-to-centennial-scale variations. We suggest that this observed latitudinal delta O-18 gradient in Greenland during the glacial period is the result of 1) relatively higher degree of precipitation with a Pacific signature at NGRIP, 2) increased summer bias in precipitation at Summit, and 3) enhanced Rayleigh distillation due to an increased source-to-site distance and a potentially larger source-to-site temperature gradient. We propose that these processes are governed by changes in the North American Ice Sheet (NAIS) volume and North Atlantic sea-ice extent and/or sea-surface temperatures (SST) on orbital timescales, and that changing sea-ice extent and SSTs are the driving mechanisms on shorter timescales. Finally, we observe that maxima in the Summit NGRIP delta O-18 difference are roughly coincident with prominent Heinrich events. This suggests that the climatic reorganization that takes place during stadials with Heinrich events, possibly driven by a southward expansion of sea ice and low SSTs in the North Atlantic, are recorded in the ice-core records. (C) 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Marcott, SA, Bauska TK, Buizert C, Steig EJ, Rosen JL, Cuffey KM, Fudge TJ, Severinghaus JP, Ahn J, Kalk ML, McConnell JR, Sowers T, Taylor KC, White JWC, Brook EJ.  2014.  Centennial-scale changes in the global carbon cycle during the last deglaciation. Nature. 514:616-+.   10.1038/nature13799   AbstractWebsite

Global climate and the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) are correlated over recent glacial cycles(1,2). The combination of processes responsible for a rise in atmospheric CO2 at the last glacial termination(1,3) (23,000 to 9,000 years ago), however, remains uncertain(1-3). Establishing the timing and rate of CO2 changes in the past provides critical insight into the mechanisms that influence the carbon cycle and helps put present and future anthropogenic emissions in context. Here we present CO2 and methane (CH4) records of the last deglaciation from a new high-accumulation West Antarctic ice core with unprecedented temporal resolution and precise chronology. We show that although low-frequency CO2 variations parallel changes in Antarctic temperature, abrupt CO2 changes occur that have a clear relationship with abrupt climate changes in the Northern Hemisphere. A significant proportion of the direct radiative forcing associated with the rise in atmospheric CO2 occurred in three sudden steps, each of 10 to 15 parts per million. Every step took place in less than two centuries and was followed by no notable change in atmospheric CO2 for about 1,000 to 1,500 years. Slow, millennial-scale ventilation of Southern Ocean CO2-rich, deep-ocean water masses is thought to have been fundamental to the rise in atmospheric CO2 associated with the glacial termination(4), given the strong covariance of CO2 levels and Antarctic temperatures(5). Our data establish a contribution from an abrupt, centennial-scale mode of CO2 variability that is not directly related to Antarctic temperature. We suggest that processes operating on centennial timescales, probably involving the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation, seem to be influencing global carbon-cycle dynamics and are at present not widely considered in Earth system models.

2013
Arnold, T, Harth CM, Mühle J, Manning AJ, Salameh PK, Kim J, Ivy DJ, Steele PL, Petrenko VV, Severinghaus JP, Baggenstos D, Weiss RF.  2013.  Nitrogen trifluoride global emissions estimated from updated atmospheric measurements. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.   10.1073/pnas.1212346110   AbstractWebsite

Nitrogen trifluoride (NF3) has potential to make a growing contribution to the Earth’s radiative budget; however, our understanding of its atmospheric burden and emission rates has been limited. Based on a revision of our previous calibration and using an expanded set of atmospheric measurements together with an atmospheric model and inverse method, we estimate that the global emissions of NF3 in 2011 were 1.18 ± 0.21 Gg⋅y−1, or ∼20 Tg CO2-eq⋅y−1 (carbon dioxide equivalent emissions based on a 100-y global warming potential of 16,600 for NF3). The 2011 global mean tropospheric dry air mole fraction was 0.86 ± 0.04 parts per trillion, resulting from an average emissions growth rate of 0.09 Gg⋅y−2 over the prior decade. In terms of CO2 equivalents, current NF3 emissions represent between 17% and 36% of the emissions of other long-lived fluorinated compounds from electronics manufacture. We also estimate that the emissions benefit of using NF3 over hexafluoroethane (C2F6) in electronics manufacture is significant—emissions of between 53 and 220 Tg CO2-eq⋅y−1 were avoided during 2011. Despite these savings, total NF3 emissions, currently ∼10% of production, are still significantly larger than expected assuming global implementation of ideal industrial practices. As such, there is a continuing need for improvements in NF3 emissions reduction strategies to keep pace with its increasing use and to slow its rising contribution to anthropogenic climate forcing.

Fudge, TJ, Steig EJ, Markle BR, Schoenemann SW, Ding QH, Taylor KC, McConnell JR, Brook EJ, Sowers T, White JWC, Alley RB, Cheng H, Clow GD, Cole-Dai J, Conway H, Cuffey KM, Edwards JS, Edwards RL, Edwards R, Fegyveresi JM, Ferris D, Fitzpatrick JJ, Johnson J, Hargreaves G, Lee JE, Maselli OJ, Mason W, McGwire KC, Mitchell LE, Mortensen N, Neff P, Orsi AJ, Popp TJ, Schauer AJ, Severinghaus JP, Sigl M, Spencer MK, Vaughn BH, Voigt DE, Waddington ED, Wang XF, Wong GJ, Members WDP.  2013.  Onset of deglacial warming in West Antarctica driven by local orbital forcing. Nature. 500:440-+.   10.1038/nature12376   AbstractWebsite

The cause of warming in the Southern Hemisphere during the most recent deglaciation remains a matter of debate(1,2). Hypotheses for a Northern Hemisphere trigger, through oceanic redistributions of heat, are based in part on the abrupt onset of warming seen in East Antarctic ice cores and dated to 18,000 years ago, which is several thousand years after high-latitude Northern Hemisphere summer insolation intensity began increasing from its minimum, approximately 24,000 years ago(3,4). An alternative explanation is that local solar insolation changes cause the Southern Hemisphere to warm independently(2,5). Here we present results from a new, annually resolved ice-core record from West Antarctica that reconciles these two views. The records show that 18,000 years ago snow accumulation in West Antarctica began increasing, coincident with increasing carbon dioxide concentrations, warming in East Antarctica and cooling in the Northern Hemisphere(6) associated with an abrupt decrease in Atlantic meridional overturning circulation(7). However, significant warming in West Antarctica began at least 2,000 years earlier. Circum-Antarctic sea-ice decline, driven by increasing local insolation, is the likely cause of this warming. The marine-influenced West Antarctic records suggest a more active role for the Southern Ocean in the onset of deglaciation than is inferred from ice cores in the East Antarctic interior, which are largely isolated from sea-ice changes.

Rasmussen, SO, Abbott PM, Blunier T, Bourne AJ, Brook E, Buchardt SL, Buizert C, Chappellaz J, Clausen HB, Cook E, Dahl-Jensen D, Davies SM, Guillevic M, Kipfstuhl S, Laepple T, Seierstad IK, Severinghaus JP, Steffensen JP, Stowasser C, Svensson A, Vallelonga P, Vinther BM, Wilhelms F, Winstrup M.  2013.  A first chronology for the North Greenland Eemian Ice Drilling (NEEM) ice core. Climate of the Past. 9:2713-2730.   10.5194/cp-9-2713-2013   AbstractWebsite

A stratigraphy-based chronology for the North Greenland Eemian Ice Drilling (NEEM) ice core has been derived by transferring the annual layer counted Greenland Ice Core Chronology 2005 (GICC05) and its model extension (GICC05modelext) from the NGRIP core to the NEEM core using 787 match points of mainly volcanic origin identified in the electrical conductivity measurement (ECM) and dielectrical profiling (DEP) records. Tephra horizons found in both the NEEM and NGRIP ice cores are used to test the matching based on ECM and DEP and provide five additional horizons used for the timescale transfer. A thinning function reflecting the accumulated strain along the core has been determined using a Dansgaard-Johnsen flow model and an isotope-dependent accumulation rate parameterization. Flow parameters are determined from Monte Carlo analysis constrained by the observed depth-age horizons. In order to construct a chronology for the gas phase, the ice age-gas age difference (Delta age) has been reconstructed using a coupled firn densification-heat diffusion model. Temperature and accumulation inputs to the Delta age model, initially derived from the water isotope proxies, have been adjusted to optimize the fit to timing constraints from delta N-15 of nitrogen and high-resolution methane data during the abrupt onset of Greenland interstadials. The ice and gas chronologies and the corresponding thinning function represent the first chronology for the NEEM core, named GICC05modelext-NEEM-1. Based on both the flow and firn modelling results, the accumulation history for the NEEM site has been reconstructed. Together, the timescale and accumulation reconstruction provide the necessary basis for further analysis of the records from NEEM.

Kawamura, K, Severinghaus JP, Albert MR, Courville ZR, Fahnestock MA, Scambos T, Shields E, Shuman CA.  2013.  Kinetic fractionation of gases by deep air convection in polar firn. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. 13:11141-11155.   10.5194/acp-13-11141-2013   AbstractWebsite

A previously unrecognized type of gas fractionation occurs in firn air columns subjected to intense convection. It is a form of kinetic fractionation that depends on the fact that different gases have different molecular diffusivities. Convective mixing continually disturbs diffusive equilibrium, and gases diffuse back toward diffusive equilibrium under the influence of gravity and thermal gradients. In near-surface firn where convection and diffusion compete as gas transport mechanisms, slow-diffusing gases such as krypton (Kr) and xenon (Xe) are more heavily impacted by convection than fast diffusing gases such as nitrogen (N-2) and argon (Ar), and the signals are preserved in deep firn and ice. We show a simple theory that predicts this kinetic effect, and the theory is confirmed by observations using a newly-developed Kr and Xe stable isotope system in air samples from the Megadunes field site on the East Antarctic plateau. Numerical simulations confirm the effect's magnitude at this site. A main purpose of this work is to support the development of a proxy indicator of past convection in firn, for use in ice-core gas records. To this aim, we also show with the simulations that the magnitude of the kinetic effect is fairly insensitive to the exact profile of convective strength, if the overall thickness of the convective zone is kept constant. These results suggest that it may be feasible to test for the existence of an extremely deep (similar to 30-40 m) convective zone, which has been hypothesized for glacial maxima, by future ice-core measurements.

Fischer, H, Severinghaus J, Brook E, Wolff E, Albert M, Alemany O, Arthern R, Bentley C, Blankenship D, Chappellaz J, Creyts T, Dahl-Jensen D, Dinn M, Frezzotti M, Fujita S, Gallee H, Hindmarsh R, Hudspeth D, Jugie G, Kawamura K, Lipenkov V, Miller H, Mulvaney R, Parrenin F, Pattyn F, Ritz C, Schwander J, Steinhage D, van Ommen T, Wilhelms F.  2013.  Where to find 1.5 million yr old ice for the IPICS "Oldest-Ice" ice core. Climate of the Past. 9:2489-2505.   10.5194/cp-9-2489-2013   AbstractWebsite

The recovery of a 1.5 million yr long ice core from Antarctica represents a keystone of our understanding of Quaternary climate, the progression of glaciation over this time period and the role of greenhouse gas cycles in this progression. Here we tackle the question of where such ice may still be found in the Antarctic ice sheet. We can show that such old ice is most likely to exist in the plateau area of the East Antarctic ice sheet (EAIS) without stratigraphic disturbance and should be able to be recovered after careful pre-site selection studies. Based on a simple ice and heat flow model and glaciological observations, we conclude that positions in the vicinity of major domes and saddle position on the East Antarctic Plateau will most likely have such old ice in store and represent the best study areas for dedicated reconnaissance studies in the near future. In contrast to previous ice core drill site selections, however, we strongly suggest significantly reduced ice thickness to avoid bottom melting. For example for the geothermal heat flux and accumulation conditions at Dome C, an ice thickness lower than but close to about 2500m would be required to find 1.5 Myr old ice (i.e., more than 700m less than at the current EPICA Dome C drill site). Within this constraint, the resolution of an Oldest-Ice record and the distance of such old ice to the bedrock should be maximized to avoid ice flow disturbances, for example, by finding locations with minimum geothermal heat flux. As the geothermal heat flux is largely unknown for the EAIS, this parameter has to be carefully determined beforehand. In addition, detailed bedrock topography and ice flow history has to be reconstructed for candidates of an Oldest-Ice ice coring site. Finally, we argue strongly for rapid access drilling before any full, deep ice coring activity commences to bring datable samples to the surface and to allow an age check of the oldest ice.

2011
Battle, MO, Severinghaus JP, Sofen ED, Plotkin D, Orsi AJ, Aydin M, Montzka SA, Sowers T, Tans PP.  2011.  Controls on the movement and composition of firn air at the West Antarctic Ice Sheet Divide. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. 11:11007-11021.   10.5194/acp-11-11007-2011   AbstractWebsite

We sampled interstitial air from the perennial snowpack (firn) at a site near the West Antarctic Ice Sheet Divide (WAIS-D) and analyzed the air samples for a wide variety of gas species and their isotopes. We find limited convective influence (1.4-5.2 m, depending on detection method) in the shallow firn, gravitational enrichment of heavy species throughout the diffusive column in general agreement with theoretical expectations, a similar to 10 m thick lock-in zone beginning at similar to 67 m, and a total firn thickness consistent with predictions of Kaspers et al. (2004). Our modeling work shows that the air has an age spread (spectral width) of 4.8 yr for CO2 at the firn-ice transition. We also find that advection of firn air due to the 22 cm yr(-1) ice-equivalent accumulation rate has a minor impact on firn air composition, causing changes that are comparable to other modeling uncertainties and intrinsic sample variability. Furthermore, estimates of 1 age (the gas age/ice age difference) at WAIS-D appear to be largely unaffected by bubble closure above the lock-in zone. Within the lock-in zone, small gas species and their isotopes show evidence of size-dependent fractionation due to permeation through the ice lattice with a size threshold of 0.36 nm, as at other sites. We also see an unequivocal and unprecedented signal of oxygen isotope fractionation within the lock-in zone, which we interpret as the mass-dependent expression of a size-dependent fractionation process.

Fricker, HA, Powell R, Priscu J, Tulaczyk S, Anandakrishnan S, Christner B, Fisher AT, Holland D, Horgan H, Jacobel R, Mikucki J, Mitchell A, Scherer R, Severinghaus J.  2011.  Siple Coast subglacial aquatic environments; the Whillans ice stream subglacial access research drilling project. Geophysical Monograph. 192:199-219.   10.1029/2010gm000932   AbstractWebsite

The Whillians Ice Stream Subglacial Access Research Drilling (WISSARD) project is a 6-year (2009-2015) integrative study of ice sheet stability and subglacial geobiology in West Antarctica, funded by the Antarctic Integrated System Science Program of National Science Foundation's Office of Polar Programs, Antarctic Division. The overarching scientific objective of WISSARD is to assess the role of water beneath a West Antarctic Ice Stream in interlinked glaciological, geological, microbiological, geochemical, hydrological, and oceanographic systems. The WISSARD's important science questions relate to (1) the role that subglacial and ice shelf cavity waters and wet sediments play in ice stream dynamics and mass balance, with an eye on the possible future of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and (2) the microbial metabolic and phylogenetic diversity in these subglacial environments. The study area is the downstream part of the Whillans Ice Stream on the Siple Coast, specifically Subglacial Lake Whillans and the part of the grounding zone across which it drains. In this chapter, we provide background on the motivation for the WISSARD project, detail the key scientific goals, and describe the new measurement tools and strategies under development that will provide the framework for conducting an unprecedented range of scientific observations.

2010
Severinghaus, JP, Albert MR, Courville ZR, Fahnestock MA, Kawamura K, Montzka SA, Muhle J, Scambos TA, Shields E, Shuman CA, Suwa M, Tans P, Weiss RF.  2010.  Deep air convection in the firn at a zero-accumulation site, central Antarctica. Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 293:359-367.   10.1016/j.epsl.2010.03.003   AbstractWebsite

Ice cores provide unique archives of past atmospheres and climate, but interpretation of trapped-gas records and their climatic significance has been hampered by a poor knowledge of the prevalence of air convection in the firn layer on top of polar ice sheets. In particular, the phasing of greenhouse gases and climate from ice cores has been obscured by a discrepancy between empirical and model-based estimates of the age difference between trapped gases and enclosing ice, which may be due to air convection. Here we show that deep air convection (>23 m) occurs at a windy, near-zero-accumulation rate site in central Antarctica known informally as the Megadunes site (80.77914 degrees S, 124.48796 degrees E). Deep convection is evident in depth profiles of air withdrawn from the firn layer, in the observed pattern of the nitrogen isotope ratio (15)N/(14)N, the argon isotope ratio (40)Ar/(36)Ar, and in the mixing ratios of the anthropogenic halocarbons methyl chloroform (CH(3)CCl(3)) and HFC-134a (CH(2)FCF(3)). Transport parameters (diffusivities) were inferred and air was dated using measured carbon dioxide (CO(2)) and methane (CH(4)) mixing ratios, by comparing with the Law Dome atmospheric record, which shows that these are the oldest firn air samples ever recovered (CO(2) mean age = 1863 AD). The low accumulation rate and the consequent intense metamorphism of the firn (due to prolonged exposure to seasonal temperature cycling) likely contribute to deep air convection via large grain size and vertical cracks that act as conduits for vigorous air motion. The Megadunes site provides a possible modern analog for the glacial conditions in the Vostok, Dome Fuji, and Dome C ice core records and a possible explanation for lower-than-expected (15)N/(14)N ratios in trapped air bubbles at these times. A general conclusion is that very low accumulation rate causes deep air convection via its effect on firn structural characteristics. (C) 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

2009
Fain, X, Ferrari CP, Dommergue A, Albert MR, Battle M, Severinghaus J, Arnaud L, Barnola JM, Cairns W, Barbante C, Boutron C.  2009.  Polar firn air reveals large-scale impact of anthropogenic mercury emissions during the 1970s. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 106:16114-16119.   10.1073/pnas.0905117106   AbstractWebsite

Mercury (Hg) is an extremely toxic pollutant, and its biogeochemical cycle has been perturbed by anthropogenic emissions during recent centuries. In the atmosphere, gaseous elemental mercury (GEM; Hg degrees) is the predominant form of mercury (up to 95%). Here we report the evolution of atmospheric levels of GEM in mid- to high-northern latitudes inferred from the interstitial air of firn (perennial snowpack) at Summit, Greenland. GEM concentrations increased rapidly after World War II from approximate to 1.5 ng m(-3) reaching a maximum of approximate to 3 ng m(-3) around 1970 and decreased until stabilizing at approximate to 1.7 ng m(-3) around 1995. This reconstruction reproduces real-time measurements available from the Arctic since 1995 and exhibits the same general trend observed in Europe since 1990. Anthropogenic emissions caused a two-fold rise in boreal atmospheric GEM concentrations before the 1970s, which likely contributed to higher deposition of mercury in both industrialized and remotes areas. Once deposited, this toxin becomes available for methylation and, subsequently, the contamination of ecosystems. Implementation of air pollution regulations, however, enabled a large-scale decline in atmospheric mercury levels during the 1980s. The results shown here suggest that potential increases in emissions in the coming decades could have a similar large-scale impact on atmospheric Hg levels.

2007
Aciego, SM, Cuffey KM, Kavanaugh JL, Morse DL, Severinghaus JP.  2007.  Pleistocene ice and paleo-strain rates at Taylor Glacier, Antarctica. Quaternary Research. 68:303-313.   10.1016/j.yqres.2007.07.013   AbstractWebsite

Ice exposed in ablation zones of ice sheets can be a valuable source of samples for paleoclimate studies and information about long-term ice dynamics. We report a 28-km long stable isotope sampling transect along a flowline on lower Taylor Glacier, Antarctica, and show that ice from the last glacial period is exposed here over tens of kilometers. Gas isotope analyses on a small number of samples confirm our age hypothesis. These chronostratigraphic data contain information about past ice dynamics and in particular should be sensitive to the longitudinal strain rate on the north flank of Taylor Dome, averaged over millennia. The imprint of climatic changes on ice dynamics may be discernible in these data. (c) 2007 University of Washington. All rights reserved.

Kawamura, K, Parrenin F, Lisiecki L, Uemura R, Vimeux F, Severinghaus JP, Hutterli MA, Nakazawa T, Aoki S, Jouzel J, Raymo ME, Matsumoto K, Nakata H, Motoyama H, Fujita S, Goto-Azuma K, Fujii Y, Watanabe O.  2007.  Northern Hemisphere forcing of climatic cycles in Antarctica over the past 360,000 years. Nature. 448:912-U4.   10.1038/nature06015   AbstractWebsite

The Milankovitch theory of climate change proposes that glacial interglacial cycles are driven by changes in summer insolation at high northern latitudes(1). The timing of climate change in the Southern Hemisphere at glacial-interglacial transitions (which are known as terminations) relative to variations in summer insolation in the Northern Hemisphere is an important test of this hypothesis. So far, it has only been possible to apply this test to the most recent termination(2,3), because the dating uncertainty associated with older terminations is too large to allow phase relationships to be determined. Here we present a new chronology of Antarctic climate change over the past 360,000 years that is based on the ratio of oxygen to nitrogen molecules in air trapped in the Dome Fuji and Vostok ice cores(4,5). This ratio is a proxy for local summer insolation(5), and thus allows the chronology to be constructed by orbital tuning without the need to assume a lag between a climate record and an orbital parameter. The accuracy of the chronology allows us to examine the phase relationships between climate records from the ice cores(6-9) and changes in insolation. Our results indicate that orbital-scale Antarctic climate change lags Northern Hemisphere insolation by a few millennia, and that the increases in Antarctic temperature and atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration during the last four terminations occurred within the rising phase of Northern Hemisphere summer insolation. These results support the Milankovitch theory that Northern Hemisphere summer insolation triggered the last four deglaciations(3,10,11).

2006
Kawamura, K, Severinghaus JP, Ishidoya S, Sugawara S, Hashida G, Motoyama H, Fujii Y, Aoki S, Nakazawa T.  2006.  Convective mixing of air in firn at four polar sites. Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 244:672-682.   10.1016/j.epsl.2006.02.017   AbstractWebsite

Air withdrawn from the firn, at four polar sites (Dome Fuji, H72 and YM85, Antarctica and North GRIP, Greenland) was measured for delta N-15 of N-2 and delta O-18 of O-2 to test for the presence of convective air mixing in the top part of the firn, known as the "convective zone". Understanding the convective zone and its possible relationship to surface conditions is important for constructing accurate ice-core greenhouse gas chronologies and their phasing with respect to climate change. The thickness of the convective zone was inferred from a regression line with barometric slope of the data in the deep firn. It is less than a few meters at H72 and NGRIP, whereas a substantial convective zone is found at Dome Fuji (8.6 +/- 2.6 m) and YM85 (14.0 +/- 1.8 m). By matching the outputs of a diffusion model to the data, effective eddy diffusivities required to mix the firn air are found. At the surface of Dome Fuji and YM85, these are found to be several times greater than the molecular diffusivity in free air. The crossover from dominance of convection to molecular diffusion takes place at 7 +/- 2, 11 +/- 2 and 0.5 +/- 0.5 m at Dome Fuji, YM85 and NGRIP, respectively. These depths can be used as an alternative definition of the convective zone thickness. The firn permeability at Dome Fuji is expected to be high because of intense firn metamorphism due to the low accumulation rate and large seasonal air temperature variation at the site. The firn layers in the top several meters are exposed to strong temperature gradients for several decades, leading to large firn grains and depth hoar that enhance permeability. The thick convective zone at YM85 is unexpected because the temperature, accumulation rate and near-surface density are comparable to NGRIP. The strong katabatic wind at YM85 is probably responsible for creating the deep convection. The largest convective zone found in this study is still only half of the current inconsistency implied from the deep ice core gas isotopes and firn densification models. (c) 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

2005
Brook, EJ, White JWC, Schilla ASM, Bender ML, Barnett B, Severinghaus JP, Taylor KC, Alley RB, Steig EJ.  2005.  Timing of millennial-scale climate change at Siple Dome, West Antarctica, during the last glacial period. Quaternary Science Reviews. 24:1333-1343.   10.1016/j.quascirev.2005.02.002   AbstractWebsite

Using atmospheric methane and the isotopic composition of O-2 as correlation tools, we place the 6D record of ice from the Siple Dome (West Antarctica) ice core on a precise common chronology with the GISP2 (Greenland) ice core for the period from 9 to 57 ka. The onset of major millennial warming events in Siple Dome preceded major abrupt warmings in Greenland, and the pattern of millennial change at Siple Dome was broadly similar, though not identical, to that previously observed for the Byrd ice core (also in West Antarctica). The addition of Siple Dome to the database of well-dated Antarctic paleoclimate records supports the case for a coherent regional pattern of millennial-scale climate change in Antarctica during much of the last ice age and glacial-interglacial transition.

2004
Taylor, KC, White JWC, Severinghaus JP, Brook EJ, Mayewski PA, Alley RB, Steig EJ, Spencer MK, Meyerson E, Meese DA, Lamorey GW, Grachev A, Gow AJ, Barnett BA.  2004.  Abrupt climate change around 22 ka on the Siple Coast of Antarctica. Quaternary Science Reviews. 23:7-15.   10.1016/j.quascirev.2003.09.004   AbstractWebsite

A new ice core from Siple Dome, Antarctica suggests the surface temperature increased by similar to6degreesC in just several decades at approximately 22 ka BP. This abrupt change did not occur 500 kin away in the Byrd ice core, or in climate proxy records in the Siple Dome core indicative of the mid-latitude Pacific. This demonstrates there was significant spatial heterogeneity in the response of the Antarctic climate during the last deglaciation and draws attention to unexplained mechanisms of abrupt climate change in Antarctica. (C) 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1999
Alley, RB, Lynch-Stieglitz J, Severinghaus JP.  1999.  Global climate change. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 96:9987-9988.   10.1073/pnas.96.18.9987   AbstractWebsite

Most of the last 100,000 years or longer has been characterized by large, abrupt, regional-to-global climate changes. Agriculture and industry have developed during anomalously stable climatic conditions, New, high-resolution analyses of sediment cores using multiproxy and physically based transfer functions allow increasingly confident interpretation of these past changes as having been caused by "band jumps" between modes of operation of the climate system. Recurrence of such band jumps is possible and might be affected by human activities.