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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.

Petrenko, VV, Smith AM, Brook EJ, Lowe D, Riedel K, Brailsford G, Hua Q, Schaefer H, Reeh N, Weiss RF, Etheridge D, Severinghaus JP.  2009.  14C-CH4 Measurements in Greenland Ice: Investigating Last Glacial Termination CH4 Sources. Science. 324:506-508.   10.1126/science.1168909   AbstractWebsite

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

Petrenko, VV, Smith AM, Brailsford G, Riedel K, Hua Q, Lowe D, Severinghaus JP, Levchenko V, Bromley T, Moss R, Muhle J, Brook EJ.  2008.  A new method for analyzing (14)C of methane in ancient air extracted from glacial ice. Radiocarbon. 50:53-73. AbstractWebsite

We present a new method developed for measuring radiocarbon of methane ((14)CH(4)) in ancient air samples extracted from glacial ice and dating 11,000-15,000 calendar years before present. The small size (similar to 20 mu g CH(4) carbon), low CH(4) concentrations ([CH(4)], 400-800 parts per billion [ppb]), high carbon monoxide concentrations ([CO]), and low (14)C activity of the samples created unusually high risks of contamination by extraneous carbon. Up to 2500 ppb CO in the air samples was quantitatively removed using the Sofnocat reagent. (14)C procedural blanks were greatly reduced through the construction of a new CH(4) conversion line utilizing platinized quartz wool for CH(4) combustion and the use of an ultra-high-purity iron catalyst for graphitization. The amount and (14)C activity of extraneous carbon added in the new CH(4) conversion line were determined to be 0.23 +/- 0.16 pg and 23.57 +/- 16.22 pMC, respectively. The amount of modern (100 pMC) carbon added during the graphitization step has been reduced to 0.03 mu g. The overall procedural blank for all stages of sample handling was 0.75 0.38 pMC for similar to 20-mu g, (14)C-free air samples with [CH(4)] of 500 ppb. Duration of the graphitization reactions for small (<25 mu g C) samples was greatly reduced and reaction yields improved through more efficient water vapor trapping and the use of a new iron catalyst with higher surface area. (14)C corrections for each step of sample handling have been determined. The resulting overall (14)CH(4) uncertainties for the ancient air samples are similar to 1.0 pMC.

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.

Aciego, SM, Cuffey KM, Kavanaugh JL, Morse DL, Severinghaus JP.  2007.  Pleistocene ice and paleo-strain rates at Taylor Glacier, Antarctica. Quaternary Research. 68:303-313.   10.1016/j.yqres.2007.07.013   AbstractWebsite

Ice exposed in ablation zones of ice sheets can be a valuable source of samples for paleoclimate studies and information about long-term ice dynamics. We report a 28-km long stable isotope sampling transect along a flowline on lower Taylor Glacier, Antarctica, and show that ice from the last glacial period is exposed here over tens of kilometers. Gas isotope analyses on a small number of samples confirm our age hypothesis. These chronostratigraphic data contain information about past ice dynamics and in particular should be sensitive to the longitudinal strain rate on the north flank of Taylor Dome, averaged over millennia. The imprint of climatic changes on ice dynamics may be discernible in these data. (c) 2007 University of Washington. All rights reserved.