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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Air withdrawn from the firn, at four polar sites (Dome Fuji, H72 and YM85, Antarctica and North GRIP, Greenland) was measured for delta N-15 of N-2 and delta O-18 of O-2 to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.

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.

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).

Keeling, RF, Severinghaus JP.  2000.  Atmospheric oxygen measurements and the carbon cycle. ( Wigley TML, Schimel D, Eds.).:134-140., Cambridge, New York Cambridge University Press, 1998. Abstract
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Kobashi, T, Severinghaus JP, Brook EJ, Barnola JM, Grachev AM.  2007.  Precise timing and characterization of abrupt climate change 8200 years ago from air trapped in polar ice. Quaternary Science Reviews. 26:1212-1222.   10.1016/j.quascirev.2007.01.009   AbstractWebsite

How fast and how much climate can change has significant implications for concerns about future climate changes and their potential impacts on society. An abrupt climate change 8200 years ago (8.2 ka event) provides a test case to understand possible future climatic variability. Here, methane concentration (taken as an indicator for terrestrial hydrology) and nitrogen isotopes (Greenland temperature) in trapped air in a Greenland ice core (GISP2) are employed to scrutinize the evolution of the 8.2 ka event. The synchronous change in methane and nitrogen implies that the 8.2 ka event was a synchronous event (within +/- 4 years) at a hemispheric scale, as indicated by recent climate model results [Legrande, A. N., Schmidt, G. A., Shindell, D. T., Field, C. V., Miller, R. L., Koch, D. M., Faluvegi, G., Hoffmann, G., 2006. Consistent simulations of multiple proxy responses to an abrupt climate change event. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 103, 837-842]. The event began with a large-scale general cooling and drying around similar to 8175 +/- 30 years BP (Before Present, where Present is 1950 AD). Greenland temperature cooled by 3.3 +/- 1.1 degrees C (decadal average) in less than similar to 20 years, and atmospheric methane concentration decreased by similar to 80 +/- 25 ppb over similar to 40 years, corresponding to a 15 +/- 5% emission reduction. Hemispheric scale cooling and drying.. inferred from many paleoclimate proxies, likely contributed to this emission reduction. In central Greenland, the coldest period lasted for similar to 60 years, interrupted by a milder interval of a few decades, and temperature subsequently warmed in several steps over similar to 70 years. The total duration of the 8.2 ka event was roughly 150 years. (c) 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Kobashi, T, Kawamura K, Severinghaus JP, Barnola JM, Nakaegawa T, Vinther BM, Johnsen SJ, Box JE.  2011.  High variability of Greenland surface temperature over the past 4000 years estimated from trapped air in an ice core. Geophysical Research Letters. 38   10.1029/2011gl049444   AbstractWebsite

Greenland recently incurred record high temperatures and ice loss by melting, adding to concerns that anthropogenic warming is impacting the Greenland ice sheet and in turn accelerating global sea-level rise. Yet, it remains imprecisely known for Greenland how much warming is caused by increasing atmospheric greenhouse gases versus natural variability. To address this need, we reconstruct Greenland surface snow temperature variability over the past 4000 years at the GISP2 site (near the Summit of the Greenland ice sheet; hereafter referred to as Greenland temperature) with a new method that utilises argon and nitrogen isotopic ratios from occluded air bubbles. The estimated average Greenland snow temperature over the past 4000 years was -30.7 degrees C with a standard deviation of 1.0 degrees C and exhibited a long-term decrease of roughly 1.5 degrees C, which is consistent with earlier studies. The current decadal average surface temperature (2001-2010) at the GISP2 site is -29.9 degrees C. The record indicates that warmer temperatures were the norm in the earlier part of the past 4000 years, including century-long intervals nearly 1 C warmer than the present decade (20012010). Therefore, we conclude that the current decadal mean temperature in Greenland has not exceeded the envelope of natural variability over the past 4000 years, a period that seems to include part of the Holocene Thermal Maximum. Notwithstanding this conclusion, climate models project that if anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions continue, the Greenland temperature would exceed the natural variability of the past 4000 years sometime before the year 2100. Citation: Kobashi, T., K. Kawamura, J. P. Severinghaus, J.-M. Barnola, T. Nakaegawa, B. M. Vinther, S. J. Johnsen, and J. E. Box (2011), High variability of Greenland surface temperature over the past 4000 years estimated from trapped air in an ice core, Geophys. Res. Lett., 38, L21501, doi:10.1029/2011GL049444.

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.

Kobashi, T, Severinghaus JP, Kawamura K.  2008.  Argon and nitrogen isotopes of trapped air in the GISP2 ice core during the Holocene epoch (0-11,500 B.P.): Methodology and implications for gas loss processes. Geochimica Et Cosmochimica Acta. 72:4675-4686.   10.1016/j.gca.2008.07.006   AbstractWebsite

Argon and nitrogen isotopes of air in polar ice cores provide constraints on past temperature and firn thickness, with relevance to past climate. We developed a method to simultaneously measure nitrogen and argon isotopes in trapped air from the same sample of polar ice. This method reduces the time required for analysis, allowing large numbers of measurements. We applied this method to the entire Holocene sequence of the GISP2 ice core (82.37-1692.22 m) with a 10-20 year sampling interval (670 depths). delta(40)Ar and delta(15)N show elevated values in the oldest part of the dataset, consistent with a thicker firn layer and increased temperature gradient in the firn due to the legacy of the abrupt warming at the end of the Younger Dryas interval and the gradual warming during the Preboreal interval (11.5-10.0 ka). The Preboreal Oscillation and the 8.2k event are clearly recorded. The data show remarkable stability after the 8.2k event. Available data suggests that post-coring gas loss involves two distinct types of fractionation. First, smaller molecules with less than a certain threshold size leak through the ice lattice with little isotopic fractionation. Second, gas composition changes via gas loss through microcracks, which induces isotopic fractionation. These two gas loss processes can explain most trends in our data and in other ice core records. (C) 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Kobashi, T, Severinghaus JP, Barnola JM, Kawamura K, Carter T, Nakaegawa T.  2010.  Persistent multi-decadal Greenland temperature fluctuation through the last millennium. Climatic Change. 100:733-756.   10.1007/s10584-009-9689-9   AbstractWebsite

Future Greenland temperature evolution will affect melting of the ice sheet and associated global sea-level change. Therefore, understanding Greenland temperature variability and its relation to global trends is critical. Here, we reconstruct the last 1,000 years of central Greenland surface temperature from isotopes of N(2) and Ar in air bubbles in an ice core. This technique provides constraints on decadal to centennial temperature fluctuations. We found that northern hemisphere temperature and Greenland temperature changed synchronously at periods of similar to 20 years and 40-100 years. This quasi-periodic multi-decadal temperature fluctuation persisted throughout the last millennium, and is likely to continue into the future.