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Book Chapter
Brook, EJ, Severinghaus JP, Harder S, Bender M.  1999.  Atmospheric methane and millenial scale climate change. Mechanisms of global climate change at millennial time scales. ( Clark PU, Webb RS, Keigwin LD, Eds.).:165-176., Washington, D.C.: American Geophysical Union Abstract
Journal Article
Petrenko, VV, Smith AM, Brook EJ, Lowe D, Riedel K, Brailsford G, Hua Q, Schaefer H, Reeh N, Weiss RF, Etheridge D, Severinghaus JP.  2009.  14C-CH4 Measurements in Greenland Ice: Investigating Last Glacial Termination CH4 Sources. Science. 324:506-508.   10.1126/science.1168909   AbstractWebsite

The cause of a large increase of atmospheric methane concentration during the Younger Dryas-Preboreal abrupt climatic transition (similar to 11,600 years ago) has been the subject of much debate. The carbon-14 (C-14) content of methane ((CH4)-C-14) should distinguish between wetland and clathrate contributions to this increase. We present measurements of (CH4)-C-14 in glacial ice, targeting this transition, performed by using ice samples obtained from an ablation site in west Greenland. Measured (CH4)-C-14 values were higher than predicted under any scenario. Sample (CH4)-C-14 appears to be elevated by direct cosmogenic C-14 production in ice. C-14 of CO was measured to better understand this process and correct the sample (CH4)-C-14. Corrected results suggest that wetland sources were likely responsible for the majority of the Younger Dryas-Preboreal CH4 rise.

Kobashi, T, Severinghaus JP, Barnola JM.  2008.  4 +/- 1.5 degrees C abrupt warming 11,270 yr ago identified from trapped air in Greenland ice. Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 268:397-407.   10.1016/j.epsl.2008.01.032   AbstractWebsite

Nitrogen and argon isotopes in air trapped in a Greenland ice core (GISP2) show two prominent peaks in the interval 11,800-10,800 B.P., which indicate two large abrupt warming events. The first abrupt wanning (10 +/- 4 degrees C) is the widely documented event at the end of the Younger Dryas. Here, we report on the second abrupt warming (4 +/- 1.5 degrees C), which occurred at the end of a short lived cooler interval known as the Preboreal Oscillation (11,270 +/- 30 B.P.). A rapid snow accumulation increase suggests that the climatic transition may have occurred within a few years. The character of the Preboreal Oscillation and the subsequent abrupt warming is similar to the Dansgaard-Oeschger (D/O) events in the last glacial period, suggestive of a common mechanism, but different from another large climate change at 8,200 B.P., in which cooling was abrupt but subsequent warming was gradual. The large abrupt warming at 11,270 B.P. may be considered to be the final D/O event prior to the arrival of the present stable and warm epoch. (c) 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Petrenko, VV, Martinerie P, Novelli P, Etheridge DM, Levin I, Wang Z, Blunier T, Chappellaz J, Kaiser J, Lang P, Steele LP, Hammer S, Mak J, Langenfelds RL, Schwander J, Severinghaus JP, Witrant E, Petron G, Battle MO, Forster G, Sturges WT, Lamarque JF, Steffen K, White JWC.  2013.  A 60 yr record of atmospheric carbon monoxide reconstructed from Greenland firn air. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. 13:7567-7585.   10.5194/acp-13-7567-2013   AbstractWebsite

We present the first reconstruction of the Northern Hemisphere (NH) high latitude atmospheric carbon monoxide (CO) mole fraction from Greenland firn air. Firn air samples were collected at three deep ice core sites in Greenland (NGRIP in 2001, Summit in 2006 and NEEM in 2008). CO records from the three sites agree well with each other as well as with recent atmospheric measurements, indicating that CO is well preserved in the firn at these sites. CO atmospheric history was reconstructed back to the year 1950 from the measurements using a combination of two forward models of gas transport in firn and an inverse model. The reconstructed history suggests that Arctic CO in 1950 was 140-150 nmol mol(-1), which is higher than today's values. CO mole fractions rose by 10-15 nmol mol(-1) from 1950 to the 1970s and peaked in the 1970s or early 1980s, followed by a approximate to 30 nmol mol(-1) decline to today's levels. We compare the CO history with the atmospheric histories of methane, light hydrocarbons, molecular hydrogen, CO stable isotopes and hydroxyl radicals (OH), as well as with published CO emission inventories and results of a historical run from a chemistry-transport model. We find that the reconstructed Greenland CO history cannot be reconciled with available emission inventories unless unrealistically large changes in OH are assumed. We argue that the available CO emission inventories strongly underestimate historical NH emissions, and fail to capture the emission decline starting in the late 1970s, which was most likely due to reduced emissions from road transportation in North America and Europe.

Grachev, AM, Brook EJ, Severinghaus JP.  2007.  Abrupt changes in atmospheric methane at the MIS 5b-5a transition. Geophysical Research Letters. 34   10.1029/2007gl029799   AbstractWebsite

New ice core analyses show that the prominent rise in atmospheric methane concentration at Dansgaard-Oeschger event 21 was interrupted by a century-long 20% decline, which was previously unrecognized. The reversal was found in a new similar to 100-year resolution study of methane in the GISP2 ice core, encompassing the beginning of D-O event 21, which also corresponds to the transition from MIS 5b to 5a. Although a corresponding reversal (within age uncertainty) is observed in climate proxies measured in GISP2 ice, including delta O-18(ice), electrical conductivity, light scattering, and several ions, this feature has not been discussed previously. Abrupt changes in methane are paralleled by changes in delta N-15 of trapped air, a quantity that reflects local temperature change at Greenland summit. The reversal described here supports the hypothesis that climate can be unstable during major transitions, as was previously described for the last deglaciation.

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.

Severinghaus, JP, Brook EJ.  1999.  Abrupt climate change at the end of the last glacial period inferred from trapped air in polar ice. Science. 286:930-934.   10.1126/science.286.5441.930   AbstractWebsite

The last glacial period was terminated by an abrupt warming event in the North Atlantic similar to 15,000 years before the present, and warming events of similar age have been reported from Low Latitudes. Understanding the mechanism of this termination requires that the precise relative timing of abrupt climate warming in the tropics versus the North Atlantic be known. Nitrogen and argon isotopes in trapped air in Greenland ice show that the Greenland Summit warmed 9 +/- 3 degrees C over a period of several decades, beginning 14,672 years ago. Atmospheric methane concentrations rose abruptly over a similar to 50-year period and began their increase 20 to 30 years after the onset of the abrupt Greenland warming. These data suggest that tropical climate became warmer or wetter (or both) similar to 20 to 80 years after the onset of Greenland warming, supporting a North Atlantic rather than a tropical trigger for the climate event.

Baggenstos, D, Bauska TK, Severinghaus JP, Lee JE, Schaefer H, Buizert C, Brook EJ, Shackleton S, Petrenko VV.  2017.  Atmospheric gas records from Taylor Glacier, Antarctica, reveal ancient ice with ages spanning the entire last glacial cycle. Climate of the Past. 13:943-958.   10.5194/cp-13-943-2017   AbstractWebsite

Old ice for paleo-environmental studies, traditionally accessed through deep core drilling on domes and ridges on the large ice sheets, can also be retrieved at the surface from ice sheet margins and blue ice areas. The practically unlimited amount of ice available at these sites satisfies a need in the community for studies of trace components requiring large sample volumes. For margin sites to be useful as ancient ice archives, the ice stratigraphy needs to be understood and age models need to be established. We present measurements of trapped gases in ice from Taylor Glacier, Antarctica, to date the ice and assess the completeness of the stratigraphic section. Using delta O-18 of O-2 and methane concentrations, we unambiguously identify ice from the last glacial cycle, covering every climate interval from the early Holocene to the penultimate interglacial. A high-resolution transect reveals the last deglaciation and the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) in detail. We observe large-scale deformation in the form of folding, but individual stratigraphic layers do not appear to have undergone irregular thinning. Rather, it appears that the entire LGM-deglaciation sequence has been transported from the interior of the ice sheet to the surface of Taylor Glacier relatively undisturbed. We present an age model that builds the foundation for gas studies on Taylor Glacier. A comparison with the Taylor Dome ice core confirms that the section we studied on Taylor Glacier is better suited for paleo-climate reconstructions of the LGM due to higher accumulation rates.

Bauska, TK, Baggenstos D, Brook EJ, Mix AC, Marcott SA, Petrenko VV, Schaefer H, Severinghaus JP, Lee JE.  2016.  Carbon isotopes characterize rapid changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide during the last deglaciation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 113:3465-3470.   10.1073/pnas.1513868113   AbstractWebsite

An understanding of the mechanisms that control CO2 change during glacial-interglacial cycles remains elusive. Here we help to constrain changing sources with a high-precision, high-resolution deglacial record of the stable isotopic composition of carbon in CO2 (delta C-13-CO2) in air extracted from ice samples from Taylor Glacier, Antarctica. During the initial rise in atmospheric CO2 from 17.6 to 15.5 ka, these data demarcate a decrease in delta C-13-CO2, likely due to a weakened oceanic biological pump. From 15.5 to 11.5 ka, the continued atmospheric CO2 rise of 40 ppm is associated with small changes in delta C-13-CO2, consistent with a nearly equal contribution from a further weakening of the biological pump and rising ocean temperature. These two trends, related to marine sources, are punctuated at 16.3 and 12.9 ka with abrupt, century-scale perturbations in delta C-13-CO2 that suggest rapid oxidation of organic land carbon or enhanced air-sea gas exchange in the Southern Ocean. Additional century-scale increases in atmospheric CO2 coincident with increases in atmospheric CH4 and Northern Hemisphere temperature at the onset of the Bolling (14.6-14.3 ka) and Holocene (11.6-11.4 ka) intervals are associated with small changes in delta C-13-CO2, suggesting a combination of sources that included rising surface ocean temperature.

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.

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.

Bauska, TK, Brook EJ, Marcott SA, Baggenstos D, Shackleton S, Severinghaus JP, Petrenko VV.  2018.  Controls on millennial-scale atmospheric CO2 variability during the last glacial period. Geophysical Research Letters. 45:7731-7740.   10.1029/2018gl077881   AbstractWebsite

Changes in atmospheric CO2 on millennial-to-centennial timescales are key components of past climate variability during the last glacial and deglacial periods (70-10 ka), yet the sources and mechanisms responsible for the CO2 fluctuations remain largely obscure. Here we report the C-13/C-12 ratio of atmospheric CO2 during a key interval of the last glacial period at submillennial resolution, with coeval histories of atmospheric CO2, CH4, and N2O concentrations. The carbon isotope data suggest that the millennial-scale CO2 variability in Marine Isotope Stage 3 is driven largely by changes in the organic carbon cycle, most likely by sequestration of respired carbon in the deep ocean. Centennial-scale CO2 variations, distinguished by carbon isotope signatures, are associated with both abrupt hydrological change in the tropics (e.g., Heinrich events) and rapid increases in Northern Hemisphere temperature (Dansgaard-Oeschger events). These events can be linked to modes of variability during the last deglaciation, thus suggesting that drivers of millennial and centennial CO2 variability during both periods are intimately linked to abrupt climate variability. Plain Language Summary Ice cores provide unique records of variations in atmospheric CO2 prior to the instrumental era. While it is clear that changes in atmospheric CO2 played a significant role in driving past climate change, it is unclear what in turn drove changes in atmospheric CO2. Here we investigate enigmatic changes in atmospheric CO2 levels during an interval of the last glacial period (similar to 50,000 to 35,000 years ago) that are associated with abrupt changes in polar climate. To determine the sources and sinks for atmospheric CO2, we measured the stable isotopes of carbon in CO2 and found that the primary source of carbon to the atmosphere was an organic carbon reservoir. Most likely, this carbon was sourced from a deep ocean reservoir that waxed and waned following changes in either the productivity of the surface ocean or stratification of the deep ocean. We also found that atmospheric CO2 can change on the centennial timescale during abrupt climate transitions in the Northern Hemisphere. This observation adds to a growing body of evidence that abrupt changes in atmospheric CO2 are an important component of past carbon cycle variability.

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.

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.

Broecker, WS, Severinghaus JP.  1992.  Diminishing oxygen (News and Views). Nature. 358:710-711.   10.1038/358710a0   Abstract
Buizert, C, Severinghaus JP.  2016.  Dispersion in deep polar firn driven by synoptic-scale surface pressure variability. Cryosphere. 10:2099-2111.   10.5194/tc-10-2099-20160   AbstractWebsite

Commonly, three mechanisms of firn air transport are distinguished: molecular diffusion, advection, and near-surface convective mixing. Here we identify and describe a fourth mechanism, namely dispersion driven by synoptic-scale surface pressure variability (or barometric pumping). We use published gas chromatography experiments on firn samples to derive the along-flow dispersivity of firn, and combine this dispersivity with a dynamical air pressure propagation model forced by surface air pressure time series to estimate the magnitude of dispersive mixing in the firn. We show that dispersion dominates mixing within the firn lock-in zone. Trace gas concentrations measured in firn air samples from various polar sites confirm that dispersive mixing occurs. Including dispersive mixing in a firn air transport model suggests that our theoretical estimates have the correct order of magnitude, yet may overestimate the true dispersion. We further show that strong barometric pumping, such as at the Law Dome site, may reduce the gravitational enrichment of delta N-15-N-2 and other tracers below gravitational equilibrium, questioning the traditional definition of the lock-in depth as the depth where delta N-15 enrichment ceases. Last, we propose that Kr-86 excess may act as a proxy for past synoptic activity (or paleo-storminess) at the site.

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).

Rhodes, RH, Brook EJ, Chiang JCH, Blunier T, Maselli OJ, McConnell JR, Romanini D, Severinghaus JP.  2015.  Enhanced tropical methane production in response to iceberg discharge in the North Atlantic. Science. 348:1016-1019.   10.1126/science.1262005   AbstractWebsite

The causal mechanisms responsible for the abrupt climate changes of the Last Glacial Period remain unclear. One major difficulty is dating ice-rafted debris deposits associated with Heinrich events: Extensive iceberg influxes into the North Atlantic Ocean linked to global impacts on climate and biogeochemistry. In a new ice core record of atmospheric methane with ultrahigh temporal resolution, we find abrupt methane increases within Heinrich stadials 1, 2, 4, and 5 that, uniquely, have no counterparts in Greenland temperature proxies. Using a heuristic model of tropical rainfall distribution, we propose that Hudson Strait Heinrich events caused rainfall intensification over Southern Hemisphere land areas, thereby producing excess methane in tropical wetlands. Our findings suggest that the climatic impacts of Heinrich events persisted for 740 to 1520 years.

Caillon, N, Severinghaus JP, Barnola JM, Chappellaz J, Jouzel J, Parrenin F.  2001.  Estimation of temperature change and of gas age ice age difference, 108 kyr BP, at Vostok, Antarctica. Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres. 106:31893-31901.   10.1029/2001jd900145   AbstractWebsite

Air trapped in ice core bubbles provides our primary source of information about past atmospheres. Air isotopic composition ((15)N/(14)N and (40)Ar/(36)Ar) permits an estimate of the temperature shifts associated with abrupt climate changes because of isotope fractionation occurring in response to temperature gradients in the snow layer on top of polar ice sheets. A rapid surface temperature change modifies temporarily the firn temperature gradient, which causes a detectable anomaly in the isotopic composition of nitrogen and argon. The location of this anomaly in depth characterizes the gas age - ice age difference (Deltaage) during an abrupt,Gwent by correlation with the deltaD (or 5180) anomaly in the ice. We focus this study on the marine isotope stage 5d/5c transition (108 kyr B.P.), a climate warming which was one of the most abrupt events in the Vostok (Antarctica) ice isotopic record [Petit et al., 1999]. A step-like decrease in delta(15)N and delta(40)Ar/4 from 0.49 to 0.47 parts per thousand (possibly a gravitational signal due to a change in firn thickness) is preceded by a small but detectable delta(15)N peak (possibly a thermal diffusion signal). We obtain an estimate of 5350 +/- 300 yr for Deltaage, close to the model estimate of 5000 years obtained using the Vostok glaciological timescale. Our results also suggest that the use of the present-day spatial isotope-temperature relationship slightly underestimates (but by no more than 20 +/- 15%) the Vostok temperature change from present day at that time, which is in contrast to the temperature estimate based on borehole temperature measurements in Vostok which suggests that Antarctic temperature changes are underestimated by up to 50%.

Huber, C, Beyerle U, Leuenberger M, Schwander J, Kipfer R, Spahni R, Severinghaus JP, Weiler K.  2006.  Evidence for molecular size dependent gas fractionation in firn air derived from noble gases, oxygen, and nitrogen measurements. Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 243:61-73.   10.1016/j.epsl.2005.12.036   AbstractWebsite

We present elemental and isotopic measurements of noble gases (He, Ne, Ar, Kr, and Xe), oxygen and nitrogen of firn air from two sites. The first set of samples was taken in 1998 at the summit of the Devon Ice Cap in the eastern part of Devon Island. The second set was taken in 2001 at NGRIP location (North Greenland). He and Ne are heavily enriched relative to Ar with respect to the atmosphere in the air near the close-off depth at around 50-70 in. The enrichment increases with depth and reaches the maximum value in the deepest samples just above the zone of impermeable ice where no free air could be extracted anymore. Similarly, elemental ratios of O(2)/N(2), O(2)/Ar and Ar/N(2) are increasing with depth. In contrast but in line with expectations, isotopic ratios of (15)N/(14)N, (18)O/(16)O, and (36)Ar/(40)Ar show no significant enrichment near the close-off depth. The observed isotopic ratios in the firn air column can be explained within the uncertainty ranges by the well-known processes of gravitational enrichment and thermal diffusion. To explain the elemental ratios, however, an additional fractionation process during bubble inclusion has to be considered. We implemented this additional process into our firn air model. The fractionation factors were found by fitting model profiles to the data. We found a very similar close-off fractionation behavior for the different molecules at both sites. For smaller gas species (mainly He and Ne) the fractionation factors are linearly correlated to the molecule size, whereas for diameters greater than about 3.6 A the fractionation seems to be significantly smaller or even negligible. An explanation for this size dependent fractionation process could be gas diffusion through the ice lattice. At Devon Island the enrichment at the bottom of the firn air column is about four times higher compared to NGRIP. We explain this by lower firn diffusivity at Devon Island, most probably due to melt layers, resulting in significantly reduced back diffusion of the excess gas near the close-off depth. The results of this study considerably increase the understanding of the processes occurring during air bubble inclusion near the close-off depth in firn and can help to improve the interpretation of direct firn air measurements, as well as air bubble measurements in ice cores, which are used in numerous studies as paleo proxies. (c) 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Severinghaus, JP, Keeling RF, Miller BR, Weiss RF, Deck B, Broecker WS.  1997.  Feasibility of using sand dunes as archives of old air. Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres. 102:16783-16792.   10.1029/97jd00525   AbstractWebsite

Large unaltered samples of the atmosphere covering the past century would complement the history of atmospheric gases obtained from bubbles in ice cores, enabling measurement of geochemically important species such as O-2, (CH4)-C-14, and (CO)-C-14. Sand dunes are a porous media with interstitial air in diffusive contact with the atmosphere, somewhat analogous to the unconsolidated layer of firn atop glaciers. Recent studies have demonstrated the value of firn as an archive of old air [Battle et al., 1996; Bender et al., 1994a]. Unlike firn, sand dunes are incompressible and so remain permeable to greater depths and may extend the firn record into the past century. To evaluate the feasibility of using sand dunes as archives of old air, we drilled 60 m deep test holes in the Algodones Dunes, Imperial Valley, California. The main objective was to see if the air in a sand dune is as old as predicted by a diffusion model, or if the dune is rapidly flushed by advective pumping during windstorms and barometric pressure changes. We dated the air with chlorofluorocarbons and krypton-85, anthropogenic tracers whose atmospheric concentrations are known and have been increasing rapidly in the past half century. These tracer data match the pure diffusion model well, showing that advection in this dune is negligible compared to diffusion as a transport mechanism and that the mean age of the air at 61 m depth is similar to 10 years. Dunes therefore do contain old air. However, dunes appear to suffer from two serious drawbacks as archives. Microbial metabolism is evident in elevated CO2 and N2O and depressed CH4 and O-2 concentrations in this dune, corrupting the signals of interest in this and probably most dunes. Second, isotopic analyses of N-2 and O-2 from the dune show that fractionation of the gases occurs due to diffusion of water vapor, complicating the interpretation of the O-2 signal beyond the point of viability for an air archive. Sand dunes may be useful for relatively inert gases with large atmospheric concentration changes such as chlorofluorocarbons.

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.

Severinghaus, JP, Battle MO.  2006.  Fractionation of gases in polar lee during bubble close-off: New constraints from firn air Ne, Kr and Xe observations. Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 244:474-500.   10.1016/j.epsl.2006.01.032   AbstractWebsite

Gas ratios in air withdrawn from polar firn (snowpack) show systematic enrichments of Ne/N(2), O(2)/N(2) and Ar/N(2), in the firn-ice transition region where bubbles are closing off. Air from the bubbles in polar ice is correspondingly depleted in these ratios, after accounting for gravitational effects. Gas in the bubbles becomes fractionated during the process of bubble close-off and fractionation may continue as ice cores are stored prior to analysis. We present results from firn air studies at South Pole and Siple Dome, Antarctica, which add Ne, Kr and Xe measurements to the suite of observations. Ne, O(2) and Ar appear to be preferentially excluded from the shrinking and occluding bubbles, and these gases therefore accumulate in the residual firn air, creating a progressive enrichment with time (and depth) in firn air. Early sealing of gases by thin horizontal impermeable layers into a nondiffusive zone or "lock-in zone" greatly enhances this enrichment. A simple model of the bubble close-off fractionation and lock-in zone enrichment fits the data adequately. The model presumes that fractionation is caused by selective permeation of gas through the ice lattice from slightly overpressured bubbles. The effect appears to be size-dependent, because Ne, 02 and Ar have smaller effective molecular diameters than N(2), and fractionation increases strongly with decreasing size. Ne is fractionated 34 2 times more than 0, in South Pole firn air and reaches an enrichment of 90 parts per thousand in the deepest sample. The large atoms Kr and Xe do not appear to be fractionated by this process, despite the large size difference between the two gases, suggesting a threshold atomic diameter of similar to 3.6 angstrom above which the probability becomes very small that the gas will escape from the bubble. These findings have implications for ice core and firn air studies that use gas ratios to infer paleotemperature, chronology and past atmospheric composition. (c) 2006 Elsevier B.V.. All rights reserved.

Severinghaus, JP, Bender ML, Keeling RF, Broecker WS.  1996.  Fractionation of soil gases by diffusion of water vapor, gravitational settling, and thermal diffusion. Geochimica Et Cosmochimica Acta. 60:1005-1018.   10.1016/0016-7037(96)00011-7   AbstractWebsite

Air sampled from the moist unsaturated zone in a sand dune exhibits depletion in the heavy isotopes of N-2 and O-2. We propose that the depletion is caused by a diffusive flux of water vapor out of the dune, which sweeps out the other gases, forcing them to diffuse back into the dune. The heavy isotopes of N-2 and O-2 diffuse back more slowly, resulting in a steady-state depletion of the heavy isotopes in the dune interior. We predict the effect's magnitude with molecular diffusion theory and reproduce it in a laboratory simulation, finding good agreement between field, theory, and lab. The magnitude of the effect is governed by the ratio of the binary diffusivities against water vapor of a pair of gases, and increases similar to linearly with the difference between the water vapor mole fraction of the site and the advectively mixed reservoir with which it is in diffusive contact (in most cases the atmosphere). The steady-state effect is given by delta(i) = [i/j/i(0)/j(0) - 1] 10(3) parts per thousand congruent to [(1 - x(H2O)/1 - x(H2O0))((Dj-H2O/Di-H2O)-1) -1] 10(3) parts per thousand, where delta(i) is the fractional deviation in permil of the gas i/gas j ratio from the advectively mixed reservoir, x(H2O) and x(H2O0) are respectively the mole fractions of water vapor at the site and in the advectively mixed reservoir, and D-i-H2O is the binary diffusion coefficient of gas i with water vapor. The effect is independent of scale at steady state, but approaches steady state with the time constant of diffusion set by the length scale. Exploiting the mechanism, we make an experimental estimate of the relative diffusivities of O-2 and N-2 against water vapor, finding that O-2 diffuses 3.6 +/- 0.3% faster than N-2 despite its greater mass. We also confirm in the study dune the presence of two additional known processes: gravitational fractionation, heretofore seen only in the unconsolidated firn of polar ice sheets, and thermal diffusion, well described in laboratory studies but not seen previously in nature. We predict that soil gases in general will exhibit the three effects described here, the water vapor flux fractionation effect, gravitational fractionation, and thermal diffusion. However, our analysis neglects Knudsen diffusion and thus may be inapplicable to fine-grained soils.

Petrenko, VV, Severinghaus JP, Brook EJ, Reeh N, Schaefer H.  2006.  Gas records from the West Greenland ice margin covering the Last Glacial Termination: a horizontal ice core. Quaternary Science Reviews. 25:865-875.   10.1016/j.quascirev.2005.09.005   AbstractWebsite

Certain sites along ice sheet margins provide an easily accessible and almost unlimited supply of ancient ice at the surface. Measurements of gases in trapped air from ice outcropping at Pakitsoq, West Greenland, demonstrate that ancient air is mostly well preserved. No alterations in delta O-18(atm) and delta N-15 of N-2 are apparent, and alterations in methane are found in only a few ice sections. Using measurements of these gases, we have unambiguously identified a stratigraphic section containing ice from the end of last glacial period as well as Bolling-Allerod, Younger Dryas and Preboreal intervals. Extensive sections of ice from the Holocene and most ages within the last glacial period are probably also present. Very accurate dating has been possible in the ice section containing the Younger Dryas-Preboreal abrupt climate transition signal. The ice at Pakitsoq is folded and non-uniformly thinned, with many cross-cutting bands of bubble-free ice and dust. The cross-cutting features are associated with anomalies in both the gas and the ice records. With careful sampling to avoid these, the ice at Pakitsoq is suitable for recovery of large-volume samples of the ancient atmosphere for analysis of trace constituents such as (CH4)-C-14. (c) 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.