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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.

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.

Goodge, JW, Severinghaus JP.  2016.  Rapid Access Ice Drill: a new tool for exploration of the deep Antarctic ice sheets and subglacial geology. Journal of Glaciology. 62:1049-1064.   10.1017/jog.2016.97   AbstractWebsite

A new Rapid Access Ice Drill (RAID) will penetrate the Antarctic ice sheets in order to create borehole observatories and take cores in deep ice, the glacial bed and bedrock below. RAID is a mobile drilling system to make multiple long, narrow boreholes in a single field season in Antarctica. RAID is based on a mineral exploration-type rotary rock-coring system using threaded drill pipe to cut through ice using reverse circulation of a non-freezing fluid for pressure-compensation, maintenance of temperature and removal of ice cuttings. Near the bottom of the ice sheet, a wireline latching assembly will enable rapid coring of ice, the glacial bed and bedrock below. Once complete, boreholes will be kept open with fluid, capped and available for future down-hole measurement of temperature gradient, heat flow, ice chronology and ice deformation. RAID is designed to penetrate up to 3300 m of ice and take cores in <200 hours, allowing completion of a borehole and coring in similar to 10 d at each site. Together, the rapid drilling capability and mobility of the system, along with ice-penetrating imaging methods, will provide a unique 3-D picture of interior and subglacial features of the Antarctic ice sheets.

Schilt, A, Brook EJ, Bauska TK, Baggenstos D, Fischer H, Joos F, Petrenko VV, Schaefer H, Schmitt J, Severinghaus JP, Spahni R, Stocker TF.  2014.  Isotopic constraints on marine and terrestrial N2O emissions during the last deglaciation. Nature. 516:234-+.   10.1038/nature13971   AbstractWebsite

Nitrous oxide (N2O) is an important greenhouse gas and ozone-depleting substance that has anthropogenic as well as natural marine and terrestrial sources(1). The tropospheric N2O concentrations have varied substantially in the past in concert with changing climate on glacial-interglacial and millennial timescales(2-8). It is not well understood, however, how N2O emissions from marine and terrestrial sources change in response to varying environmental conditions. The distinct isotopic compositions of marine and terrestrial N2O sources can help disentangle the relative changes in marine and terrestrial N2O emissions during past climate variations(4,9,10). Here we present N2O concentration and isotopic data for the last deglaciation, from 16,000 to 10,000 years before present, retrieved from air bubbles trapped in polar ice at Taylor Glacier, Antarctica. With the help of our data and a box model of the N2O cycle, we find a 30 per cent increase in total N2O emissions from the late glacial to the interglacial, with terrestrial and marine emissions contributing equally to the overall increase and generally evolving in parallel over the last deglaciation, even though there is no a priori connection between the drivers of the two sources. However, we find that terrestrial emissions dominated on centennial timescales, consistent with a state-of-the-art dynamic global vegetation and land surface process model that suggests that during the last deglaciation emission changes were strongly influenced by temperature and precipitation patterns over land surfaces. The results improve our understanding of the drivers of natural N2O emissions and are consistent with the idea that natural N2O emissions will probably increase in response to anthropogenic warming(11).

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.

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

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

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.

Severinghaus, JP, Beaudette R, Headly MA, Taylor K, Brook EJ.  2009.  Oxygen-18 of O2 Records the Impact of Abrupt Climate Change on the Terrestrial Biosphere. Science. 324:1431-1434.   10.1126/science.1169473   AbstractWebsite

Photosynthesis and respiration occur widely on Earth's surface, and the O-18/O-16 ratio of the oxygen produced and consumed varies with climatic conditions. As a consequence, the history of climate is reflected in the deviation of the O-18/O-16 of air (delta O-18(atm)) from seawater delta O-18 (known as the Dole effect). We report variations in delta O-18(atm) over the past 60,000 years related to Heinrich and Dansgaard-Oeschger events, two modes of abrupt climate change observed during the last ice age. Correlations with cave records support the hypothesis that the Dole effect is primarily governed by the strength of the Asian and North African monsoons and confirm that widespread changes in low-latitude terrestrial rainfall accompanied abrupt climate change. The rapid delta O-18(atm) changes can also be used to synchronize ice records by providing global time markers.

Schaefer, H, Petrenko VV, Brook EJ, Severinghaus JP, Reeh N, Melton JR, Mitchell L.  2009.  Ice stratigraphy at the Pakitsoq ice margin, West Greenland, derived from gas records. Journal of Glaciology. 55:411-421.   10.3189/002214309788816704   AbstractWebsite

Horizontal ice-core sites, where ancient ice is exposed at the glacier surface, offer unique opportunities for paleo-studies of trace components requiring large sample volumes. Following previous work at the Pakitsoq ice margin in West Greenland, we use a combination of geochemical parameters measured in the ice matrix (delta(18)O(ice)) and air occlusions (delta(18)O(atm), delta(15)N of N(2) and methane concentration) to date ice layers from specific climatic intervals. The data presented here expand our understanding of the stratigraphy and three-dimensional structure of ice layers outcropping at Pakitsoq. Sections containing ice from every distinct climatic interval during Termination I, including Last Glacial Maximum, Bolling/Allerod, Younger Dryas and the early Holocene, are identified. In the early Holocene, we find evidence for climatic fluctuations similar to signals found in deep ice cores from Greenland. A second glacial-interglacial transition exposed at the extreme margin of the ice is identified as another outcrop of Termination I (rather than the onset of the Eemian interglacial as postulated in earlier work). Consequently, the main structural feature at Pakitsoq is a large-scale anticline with accordion-type folding in both exposed sequences of the glacial-Holocene transition, leading to multiple layer duplications and age reversals.

Petrenko, VV, Severinghaus JP, Brook EJ, Muhle J, Headly M, Harth CM, Schaefer H, Reeh N, Weiss RF, Lowe D, Smith AM.  2008.  A novel method for obtaining very large ancient air samples from ablating glacial ice for analyses of methane radiocarbon. Journal of Glaciology. 54:233-244.   10.3189/002214308784886135   AbstractWebsite

We present techniques for obtaining large (similar to 100 L STP) samples of ancient air for analysis of (14)C of methane ((14)CH(4)) and other trace constituents. Paleoatmospheric (14)CH(4) measurements should constrain the fossil fraction of past methane budgets, as well as provide a definitive test of methane clathrate involvement in large and rapid methane concentration ([CH(4)]) increases that accompanied rapid warming events during the last deglaciation. Air dating to the Younger Dryas-Preboreal and Oldest Dryas-Bolling abrupt climatic transitions was obtained by melt extraction from old glacial ice outcropping at an ablation margin in West Greenland. The outcropping ice and occluded air were dated using a combination of delta(15)N of N(2), delta(18)O of O(2), delta(18)O(ice) and [CH(4)] measurements. The [CH(4)] blank of the melt extractions was <4 ppb. Measurements of delta(18)O and delta(15)N indicated no significant gas isotopic fractionation from handling. Measured Ar/N(2), CFC-11 and CFC-12 in the samples indicated no significant contamination from ambient air. Ar/N(2), Kr/Ar and Xe/Ar ratios in the samples were used to quantify effects of gas dissolution during the melt extractions and correct the sample [CH(4)]. Corrected [CH(4)] is elevated over expected values by up to 132 ppb for most samples, suggesting some in situ CH(4) production in ice at this site.

Buerki, PR, Jackson BC, Schilling T, Rufer T, Severinghaus JP.  2006.  Improved helium exchange gas cryostat and sample tube designs for automated gas sampling and cryopumping. Geochemistry Geophysics Geosystems. 7   10.1029/2006gc001341   AbstractWebsite

[ 1] In order to eliminate the use of liquid helium for the extraction of atmospheric gases from polar ice cores, two units of a redesigned top load helium exchange gas cryostat were built and tested. The cryostats feature the shortest and largest diameter sample wells built to date, a base temperature below 7 Kelvin, and a sample well without baffles. The cryostats allowed shortening the length and thus increasing the gas pressure inside our sample tubes by 58% and increasing the amount of sample ending up in the mass spectrometer by 4.4%. The cryostats can either be used as mobile stand-alone units for manual gas processing lines or integrated into a fully automated vacuum extraction and gas analysis line. For the latter application the cryostat was equipped with a custom-designed automated changeover system.

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.

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.

Brook, EJ, Harder S, Severinghaus J, Steig EJ, Sucher CM.  2000.  On the origin and timing of rapid changes in atmospheric methane during the last glacial period. Global Biogeochemical Cycles. 14:559-572.   10.1029/1999gb001182   AbstractWebsite

We present high resolution records of atmospheric methane from the GISP2 (Greenland Ice Sheet Project 2) ice core for four rapid climate transitions that occurred during the past 50 ka: the end of the Younger Dryas at 11.8 ka, the beginning of the Bolling-Allerod period at 14.8 ka, the beginning of interstadial 8 at 38.2 ka, and the beginning of interstadial 12 at 45.5 ka. During these events, atmospheric methane concentrations increased by 200-300 ppb over time periods of 100-300 years, significantly more slowly than associated temperature and snow accumulation changes recorded in the ice core record. We suggest that the slower rise in methane concentration may reflect the timescale of terrestrial ecosystem response to rapid climate change. We find no evidence for rapid, massive methane emissions that might be associated with large-scale decomposition of methane hydrates in sediments. With additional results from the Taylor Dome Ice Core (Antarctica) we also reconstruct changes in the interpolar methane gradient tan indicator of the geographical distribution of methane sources) associated with some of the rapid changes in atmospheric methane. The results indicate that the rise in methane at the beginning of the Bolling-Allerod period and the later rise at the end of the Younger Dryas were driven by increases in both tropical and boreal methane sources. During the Younger Dryas (a 1.3 ka cold period during the last deglaciation) the relative contribution from boreal sources was reduced relative to the early and middle Holocene periods.

Cuffey, KM, Conway H, Gades AM, Hallet B, Lorrain R, Severinghaus JP, Steig EJ, Vaughn B, White JWC.  2000.  Entrainment at cold glacier beds. Geology. 28:351-354.   10.1130/0091-7613(2000)028<0351:eacgb>;2   AbstractWebsite

Here we present measurements of the gas content and isotopic composition of debris-rich basal layers of a polar glacier, Meserve Glacier, Antarctica, which has a basal temperature of -17 degrees C. These measurements show that debris entrainment has occurred without alteration of the glacial ice, and provide the most direct evidence to date that active entrainment occurs at the beds of cold glaciers, without bulk freezing of water. Entrainment at subfreezing temperatures may have formed the U-shaped trough containing Meserve Glacier. In addition to possibly allowing some cold-based glaciers to be important geomorphic agents, entrainment at subfreezing temperatures provides a general mechanism for formation of the dirty basal layers of polar glaciers and ice sheets, which are theologically distinct and can limit the time span of ice-core analyses. Furthermore, accumulating evidence suggests that geomorphologists should abandon the assumption that cold-based glaciers do not slide and abrade their beds.

Severinghaus, JP, Sowers T, Brook EJ, Alley RB, Bender ML.  1998.  Timing of abrupt climate change at the end of the Younger Dryas interval from thermally fractionated gases in polar ice. Nature. 391:141-146.   10.1038/34346   AbstractWebsite

Rapid temperature change fractionates gas Isotopes in unconsolidated snow, producing a signal that is preserved in trapped air bubbles as the snow forms ice, The fractionation of nitrogen and argon isotopes at the end of the Younger Dryas cold interval, recorded in Greenland ice, demonstrates that warming at this time was abrupt. This warming coincides with the onset of a prominent rise in atmospheric methane concentration, indicating that the climate change was synchronous (within a few decades) over a region of at least hemispheric extent, and providing constraints on previously proposed mechanisms of climate change at this time, The depth of the nitrogen-isotope signal relative to the depth of the climate change recorded in the Ice matrix indicates that, during the Younger Dryas, the summit of Greenland was 15 +/- 3 degrees C colder than today.