Publications

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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
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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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Journal Article
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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Baggenstos, D, Haberli M, Schmitt J, Shackleton SA, Birner B, Severinghaus JP, Kellerhals T, Fischer H.  2019.  Earth's radiative imbalance from the Last Glacial Maximum to the present. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 116:14881-14886.   10.1073/pnas.1905447116   AbstractWebsite

The energy imbalance at the top of the atmosphere determines the temporal evolution of the global climate, and vice versa changes in the climate system can alter the planetary energy fluxes. This interplay is fundamental to our understanding of Earth's heat budget and the climate system. However, even today, the direct measurement of global radiative fluxes is difficult, such that most assessments are based on changes in the total energy content of the climate system. We apply the same approach to estimate the long-term evolution of Earth's radiative imbalance in the past. New measurements of noble gas-derived mean ocean temperature from the European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica Dome C ice core covering the last 40,000 y, combined with recent results from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet Divide ice core and the sea-level record, allow us to quantitatively reconstruct the history of the climate system energy budget. The temporal derivative of this quantity must be equal to the planetary radiative imbalance. During the deglaciation, a positive imbalance of typically +0.2 W.m(-2) is maintained for similar to 10,000 y, however, with two distinct peaks that reach up to 0.4 Wm(-2) during times of substantially reduced Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation. We conclude that these peaks are related to net changes in ocean heat uptake, likely due to rapid changes in North Atlantic deep-water formation and their impact on the global radiative balance, while changes in cloud coverage, albeit uncertain, may also factor into the picture.

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, 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.

Buizert, C, Martinerie P, Petrenko VV, Severinghaus JP, Trudinger CM, Witrant E, Rosen JL, Orsi AJ, Rubino M, Etheridge DM, Steele LP, Hogan C, Laube JC, Sturges WT, Levchenko VA, Smith AM, Levin I, Conway TJ, Dlugokencky EJ, Lang PM, Kawamura K, Jenk TM, White JWC, Sowers T, Schwander J, Blunier T.  2012.  Gas transport in firn: multiple-tracer characterisation and model intercomparison for NEEM, Northern Greenland. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. 12:4259-4277.   10.5194/acp-12-4259-2012   AbstractWebsite

Air was sampled from the porous firn layer at the NEEM site in Northern Greenland. We use an ensemble of ten reference tracers of known atmospheric history to characterise the transport properties of the site. By analysing uncertainties in both data and the reference gas atmospheric histories, we can objectively assign weights to each of the gases used for the depth-diffusivity reconstruction. We define an objective root mean square criterion that is minimised in the model tuning procedure. Each tracer constrains the firn profile differently through its unique atmospheric history and free air diffusivity, making our multiple-tracer characterisation method a clear improvement over the commonly used single-tracer tuning. Six firn air transport models are tuned to the NEEM site; all models successfully reproduce the data within a 1 sigma Gaussian distribution. A comparison between two replicate boreholes drilled 64 m apart shows differences in measured mixing ratio profiles that exceed the experimental error. We find evidence that diffusivity does not vanish completely in the lock-in zone, as is commonly assumed. The ice age- gas age difference (Delta age) at the firn-ice transition is calculated to be 182(-9)(+3) yr. We further present the first intercomparison study of firn air models, where we introduce diagnostic scenarios designed to probe specific aspects of the model physics. Our results show that there are major differences in the way the models handle advective transport. Furthermore, diffusive fractionation of isotopes in the firn is poorly constrained by the models, which has consequences for attempts to reconstruct the isotopic composition of trace gases back in time using firn air and ice core records.

Buizert, C, Gkinis V, Severinghaus JP, He F, Lecavalier BS, Kindler P, Leuenberger M, Carlson AE, Vinther B, Masson-Delmotte V, White JWC, Liu ZY, Otto-Bliesner B, Brook EJ.  2014.  Greenland temperature response to climate forcing during the last deglaciation. Science. 345:1177-1180.   10.1126/science.1254961   AbstractWebsite

Greenland ice core water isotopic composition (delta O-18) provides detailed evidence for abrupt climate changes but is by itself insufficient for quantitative reconstruction of past temperatures and their spatial patterns. We investigate Greenland temperature evolution during the last deglaciation using independent reconstructions from three ice cores and simulations with a coupled ocean-atmosphere climate model. Contrary to the traditional delta O-18 interpretation, the Younger Dryas period was 4.5 degrees +/- 2 degrees C warmer than the Oldest Dryas, due to increased carbon dioxide forcing and summer insolation. The magnitude of abrupt temperature changes is larger in central Greenland (9 degrees to 14 degrees C) than in the northwest (5 degrees to 9 degrees C), fingerprinting a North Atlantic origin. Simulated changes in temperature seasonality closely track changes in the Atlantic overturning strength and support the hypothesis that abrupt climate change is mostly a winter phenomenon.

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.

Buizert, C, Petrenko VV, Kavanaugh JL, Cuffey KM, Lifton NA, Brook EJ, Severinghaus JP.  2012.  In situ cosmogenic radiocarbon production and 2-D ice flow line modeling for an Antarctic blue ice area. Journal of Geophysical Research-Earth Surface. 117   10.1029/2011jf002086   AbstractWebsite

Radiocarbon measurements at ice margin sites and blue ice areas can potentially be used for ice dating, ablation rate estimates and paleoclimatic reconstructions. Part of the measured signal comes from in situ cosmogenic C-14 production in ice, and this component must be well understood before useful information can be extracted from C-14 data. We combine cosmic ray scaling and production estimates with a two-dimensional ice flow line model to study cosmogenic C-14 production at Taylor Glacier, Antarctica. We find (1) that C-14 production through thermal neutron capture by nitrogen in air bubbles is negligible; (2) that including ice flow patterns caused by basal topography can lead to a surface C-14 activity that differs by up to 25% from the activity calculated using an ablation-only approximation, which is used in all prior work; and (3) that at high ablation margin sites, solar modulation of the cosmic ray flux may change the strength of the dominant spallogenic production by up to 10%. As part of this effort we model two-dimensional ice flow along the central flow line of Taylor Glacier. We present two methods for parameterizing vertical strain rates, and assess which method is more reliable for Taylor Glacier. Finally, we present a sensitivity study from which we conclude that uncertainties in published cosmogenic production rates are the largest source of potential error. The results presented here can inform ongoing and future C-14 and ice flow studies at ice margin sites, including important paleoclimatic applications such as the reconstruction of paleoatmospheric C-14 content of methane.

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.

Bereiter, B, Shackleton S, Baggenstos D, Kawamura K, Severinghaus J.  2018.  Mean global ocean temperatures during the last glacial transition. Nature. 553:39-+.   10.1038/nature25152   AbstractWebsite

Little is known about the ocean temperature's long-term response to climate perturbations owing to limited observations and a lack of robust reconstructions. Although most of the anthropogenic heat added to the climate system has been taken up by the ocean up until now, its role in a century and beyond is uncertain. Here, using noble gases trapped in ice cores, we show that the mean global ocean temperature increased by 2.57 +/- 0.24 degrees Celsius over the last glacial transition (20,000 to 10,000 years ago). Our reconstruction provides unprecedented precision and temporal resolution for the integrated global ocean, in contrast to the depth-, region-, organism-and season-specific estimates provided by other methods. We find that the mean global ocean temperature is closely correlated with Antarctic temperature and has no lead or lag with atmospheric CO2, thereby confirming the important role of Southern Hemisphere climate in global climate trends. We also reveal an enigmatic 700-year warming during the early Younger Dryas period (about 12,000 years ago) that surpasses estimates of modern ocean heat uptake.

Petrenko, VV, Severinghaus JP, Schaefer H, Smith AM, Kuhl T, Baggenstos D, Hua Q, Brook EJ, Rose P, Kulin R, Bauska T, Harth C, Buizert C, Orsi A, Emanuele G, Lee JE, Brailsford G, Keeling R, Weiss RF.  2016.  Measurements of 14C in ancient ice from Taylor Glacier, Antarctica constrain in situ cosmogenic 14CH4 and 14CO production rates. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta. 177:62-77.   10.1016/j.gca.2016.01.004   Abstract

Carbon-14 (14C) is incorporated into glacial ice by trapping of atmospheric gases as well as direct near-surface in situ cosmogenic production. 14C of trapped methane (14CH4) is a powerful tracer for past CH4 emissions from “old” carbon sources such as permafrost and marine CH4 clathrates. 14C in trapped carbon dioxide (14CO2) can be used for absolute dating of ice cores. In situ produced cosmogenic 14C in carbon monoxide (14CO) can potentially be used to reconstruct the past cosmic ray flux and past solar activity. Unfortunately, the trapped atmospheric and in situ cosmogenic components of 14C in glacial ice are difficult to disentangle and a thorough understanding of the in situ cosmogenic component is needed in order to extract useful information from ice core 14C. We analyzed very large (≈1000 kg) ice samples in the 2.26–19.53 m depth range from the ablation zone of Taylor Glacier, Antarctica, to study in situ cosmogenic production of 14CH4 and 14CO. All sampled ice is >50 ka in age, allowing for the assumption that most of the measured 14C originates from recent in situ cosmogenic production as ancient ice is brought to the surface via ablation. Our results place the first constraints on cosmogenic 14CH4 production rates and improve on prior estimates of 14CO production rates in ice. We find a constant 14CH4/14CO production ratio (0.0076 ± 0.0003) for samples deeper than 3 m, which allows the use of 14CO for correcting the 14CH4 signals for the in situ cosmogenic component. Our results also provide the first unambiguous confirmation of 14C production by fast muons in a natural setting (ice or rock) and suggest that the 14C production rates in ice commonly used in the literature may be too high.

Bereiter, B, Kawamura K, Severinghaus JP.  2018.  New methods for measuring atmospheric heavy noble gas isotope and elemental ratios in ice core samples. Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry. 32:801-814.   10.1002/rcm.8099   AbstractWebsite

RationaleThe global ocean constitutes the largest heat buffer in the global climate system, but little is known about its past changes. The isotopic and elemental ratios of heavy noble gases (krypton and xenon), together with argon and nitrogen in trapped air from ice cores, can be used to reconstruct past mean ocean temperatures (MOTs). Here we introduce two successively developed methods to measure these parameters with a sufficient precision to provide new constraints on past changes in MOT. MethodsThe air from an 800-g ice sample - containing roughly 80mL STP air - is extracted and processed to be analyzed on two independent dual-inlet isotope ratio mass spectrometers. The primary isotope ratios (N-15, Ar-40 and Kr-86 values) are obtained with precisions in the range of 1 per meg (0.001) per mass unit. The three elemental ratio values Kr/N-2, Xe/N-2 and Xe/Kr are obtained using sequential (non-simultaneous) peak-jumping, reaching precisions in the range of 0.1-0.3. ResultsThe latest version of the method achieves a 30% to 50% better precision on the elemental ratios and a twofold better sample throughput than the previous one. The method development uncovered an unexpected source of artefactual gas fractionation in a closed system that is caused by adiabatic cooling and warming of gases (termed adiabatic fractionation) - a potential source of measurement artifacts in other methods. ConclusionsThe precisions of the three elemental ratios Kr/N-2, Xe/N-2 and Xe/Kr - which all contain the same MOT information - suggest smaller uncertainties for reconstructed MOTs (+/- 0.3-0.1 degrees C) than previous studies have attained. Due to different sensitivities of the noble gases to changes in MOT, Xe/N-2 provides the best constraints on the MOT under the given precisions followed by Xe/Kr, and Kr/N-2; however, using all of them helps to detect methodological artifacts and issues with ice quality.

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.

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).