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Journal Article
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.

Petrenko, VV, Severinghaus JP, Smith AM, Riedel K, Baggenstos D, Harth C, Orsi A, Hua Q, Franz P, Takeshita Y, Brailsford GW, Weiss RF, Buizert C, Dickson A, Schaefer H.  2013.  High-precision C-14 measurements demonstrate production of in situ cosmogenic (CH4)-C-14 and rapid loss of in situ cosmogenic (CO)-C-14 in shallow Greenland firn. Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 365:190-197.   10.1016/j.epsl.2013.01.032   AbstractWebsite

Measurements of radiocarbon (C-14) in carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and carbon monoxide (CO) from glacial ice are potentially useful for absolute dating of ice cores, studies of the past atmospheric CH4 budget and for reconstructing the past cosmic ray flux and solar activity. Interpretation of C-14 signals in ice is complicated by the fact that the two major C-14 components-trapped atmospheric and in situ cosmogenic-are present in a combined form, as well as by a very limited understanding of the in situ component. This study measured (CH4)-C-14 and (CO)-C-14 content in glacial firn with unprecedented precision to advance understanding of the in situ C-14 component. (CH4)-C-14 and (CO)-C-14 were melt-extracted on site at Summit, Greenland from three very large (similar to 1000 kg each) replicate samples of firn that spanned a depth range of 3.6-5.6 m. Non-cosmogenic C-14 contributions were carefully characterized through simulated extractions and a suite of supporting measurements. In situ cosmogenic (CO)-C-14 was quantified to better than +/- 0.6 molecules g(-1) ice, improving on the precision of the best prior ice (CO)-C-14 measurements by an order of magnitude. The (CO)-C-14 measurements indicate that most (>99%) of the in situ cosmogenic C-14 is rapidly lost from shallow Summit firn to the atmosphere. Despite this rapid C-14 loss, our measurements successfully quantified (CH4)-C-14 in the retained fraction of cosmogenic C-14 (to +/- 0.01 molecules g(-1) ice or better), and demonstrate for the first time that a significant amount of (CH4)-C-14 is produced by cosmic rays in natural ice. This conclusion increases the confidence in the results of an earlier study that used measurements of (CH4)-C-14 in glacial ice to show that wetlands were the likely main driver of the large and rapid atmospheric CH4 increase approximately 1 1.6 kyr ago. (C) 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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

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