Publications

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2018
Wagner, TJW, Dell RW, Eisenman I, Keeling RF, Padman L, Severinghaus JP.  2018.  Wave inhibition by sea ice enables trans-Atlantic ice rafting of debris during Heinrich events. Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 495:157-163.   10.1016/j.epsl.2018.05.006   AbstractWebsite

The last glacial period was punctuated by episodes of massive iceberg calving from the Laurentide Ice Sheet, called Heinrich events, which are identified by layers of ice-rafted debris (IRD) in ocean sediment cores from the North Atlantic. The thickness of these IRD layers declines more gradually with distance from the iceberg sources than would be expected based on present-day iceberg drift and decay. Here we model icebergs as passive Lagrangian particles driven by ocean currents, winds, and sea surface temperatures. The icebergs are released in a comprehensive climate model simulation of the last glacial maximum (LGM), as well as a simulation of the modern climate. The two simulated climates result in qualitatively similar distributions of iceberg meltwater and hence debris, with the colder temperatures of the LGM having only a relatively small effect on meltwater spread. In both scenarios, meltwater flux falls off rapidly with zonal distance from the source, in contrast with the more uniform spread of IRD in sediment cores. To address this discrepancy, we propose a physical mechanism that could have prolonged the lifetime of icebergs during Heinrich events. The mechanism involves a surface layer of cold and fresh meltwater formed from, and retained around, large densely packed armadas of icebergs. This leads to wintertime sea ice formation even in relatively low latitudes. The sea ice in turn shields the icebergs from wave erosion, which is the main source of iceberg ablation. We find that sea ice could plausibly have formed around the icebergs during four months each winter. Allowing for four months of sea ice in the model results in a simulated IRD distribution which approximately agrees with the distribution of IRD in sediment cores. (C) 2018 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

2017
McConnell, JR, Burke A, Dunbar NW, Kohler P, Thomas JL, Arienzo MM, Chellman NJ, Maselli OJ, Sigl M, Adkins JF, Baggenstos D, Burkhart JF, Brook EJ, Buizert C, Cole-Dai J, Fudge TJ, Knorr G, Graf HF, Grieman MM, Iverson N, McGwire KC, Mulvaney R, Paris G, Rhodes RH, Saltzman ES, Severinghaus JP, Steffensen JP, Taylor KC, Winckler G.  2017.  Synchronous volcanic eruptions and abrupt climate change similar to 17.7 ka plausibly linked by stratospheric ozone depletion. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 114:10035-10040.   10.1073/pnas.1705595114   AbstractWebsite

Glacial-state greenhouse gas concentrations and Southern Hemisphere climate conditions persisted until similar to 17.7 ka, when a nearly synchronous acceleration in deglaciation was recorded in paleoclimate proxies in large parts of the Southern Hemisphere, with many changes ascribed to a sudden poleward shift in the Southern Hemisphere westerlies and subsequent climate impacts. We used high-resolution chemical measurements in the West Antarctic Ice Sheet Divide, Byrd, and other ice cores to document a unique, similar to 192-y series of halogen-rich volcanic eruptions exactly at the start of accelerated deglaciation, with tephra identifying the nearby Mount Takahe volcano as the source. Extensive fallout from these massive eruptions has been found >2,800 km from Mount Takahe. Sulfur isotope anomalies and marked decreases in ice core bromine consistent with increased surface UV radiation indicate that the eruptions led to stratospheric ozone depletion. Rather than a highly improbable coincidence, circulation and climate changes extending from the Antarctic Peninsula to the subtropics-similar to those associated with modern stratospheric ozone depletion over Antarctica-plausibly link the Mount Takahe eruptions to the onset of accelerated Southern Hemisphere deglaciation similar to 17.7 ka.

2016
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.

2014
Rosen, JL, Brook EJ, Severinghaus JP, Blunier T, Mitchell LE, Lee JE, Edwards JS, Gkinis V.  2014.  An ice core record of near-synchronous global climate changes at the Bolling transition. Nature Geoscience. 7:459-463.   10.1038/ngeo2147   AbstractWebsite

The abrupt warming that initiated the Bolling-Allerod interstadial was the penultimate warming in a series of climate variations known as Dansgaard-Oeschger events. Despite the clear expression of this transition in numerous palaeoclimate records, the relative timing of climate shifts in different regions of the world and their causes are subject to debate. Here we explore the phasing of global climate change at the onset of the Bolling-Allerod using air preserved in bubbles in the North Greenland Eemian ice core. Specifically, we measured methane concentrations, which act as a proxy for low-latitude climate, and the N-15/N-14 ratio of N-2, which reflects Greenland surface temperature, over the same interval of time. We use an atmospheric box model and a firn air model to account for potential uncertainties in the data, and find that changes in Greenland temperature and atmospheric methane emissions at the Bolling onset occurred essentially synchronously, with temperature leading by 4.5(-24)(+21) years. We cannot exclude the possibility that tropical climate could iag changing methane concentrations by up to several decades, if the initial methane rise came from boreal sources alone. However, because even boreal methane-producing regions lie far from Greenland, we conclude that the mechanism that drove abrupt change at this time must be capable of rapidly transmitting climate changes across the globe.

2009
Grachev, AM, Brook EJ, Severinghaus JP, Pisias NG.  2009.  Relative timing and variability of atmospheric methane and GISP2 oxygen isotopes between 68 and 86 ka. Global Biogeochemical Cycles. 23   10.1029/2008gb003330   AbstractWebsite

The global biogeochemical cycle of methane has received wide attention because of methane's role as a greenhouse gas. Measurements of methane in air trapped in Greenland ice cores provide a high-resolution record of methane levels in the atmosphere over the past similar to 100 ka, providing clues about what controls the methane cycle on geologic timescales. Remarkable similarity between local temperature recorded in Greenland ice cores and changes in global methane concentrations has been noted in previous studies, with the inference that the local temperature variations have global significance, but the resolution of sampling and measurement precision limited fine-scale comparison of these variables. In this work a higher-precision (similar to 2 ppb) methane data set was obtained from the Greenland Ice Sheet Project 2 (GISP2) ice core for the time interval between 86 and 68 ka, encompassing three large abrupt warming events early in the last glacial period: Dansgaard-Oeschger (D-O) events 19, 20, and 21. The new data set consists of duplicate measurements at 158 depths, with average time resolution of 120 years. Such detailed measurements over D-O 21, the longest in Greenland records, have not yet been reported for other ice cores. The new data set documents short-term variability (similar to 20 ppb typical amplitude), which is remarkably persistent, and in many cases similar features are observed in the most detailed published delta(18)O(ice) record. High-precision GISP2 delta(15)N data show that changes in Greenland temperature are synchronous with the methane variations at the onset of D-O events 19, 20, and 21, supporting previous results from the Greenland Ice Core Project ice core for D-O 19 and 20. Cross-spectral analysis quantifies the extremely close similarity between the new methane record and the delta(18)O(ice) record. Because methane sources are widely distributed over the globe, this work further validates delta(18)O(ice) at Greenland summit as a geographically broad climate indicator on millennial to multicentennial timescales.

2007
Headly, MA, Severinghaus JP.  2007.  A method to measure Kr/N-2 ratios in air bubbles trapped in ice cores and its application in reconstructing past mean ocean temperature. Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres. 112   10.1029/2006jd008317   AbstractWebsite

We describe a new method for precise measurement of Kr/N-2 ratios in air bubbles trapped in ice cores and the first reconstruction of atmospheric Kr/N-2 during the last glacial maximum (LGM) similar to 20,000 years ago. After gravitational correction, the Kr/N-2 record in ice cores should represent the atmospheric ratio, which in turn should reflect past ocean temperature change due to the dependence of gas solubility on temperature. The increase in krypton inventory in the glacial ocean due to higher gas solubility in colder water causes a decrease in the atmospheric inventory of krypton. Assuming Kr and N-2 inventories in the ocean-atmosphere system are conserved, we use a mass balance model to estimate a mean ocean temperature change between the LGM and today. We measured Kr/N-2 in air bubbles in Greenland (GISP2) ice from the late Holocene and LGM, using the present atmosphere as a standard. The late Holocene delta Kr/N-2 means from two sets of measurements are not different from zero (+0.07 +/- 0.30 parts per thousand and -0.14 +/- 0.93 parts per thousand), as expected from the relatively constant climate of the last millennium. The mean delta Kr/N-2 in air bubbles from the LGM is -1.34 +/- 0.37 parts per thousand. Using the mass balance model, we estimate that the mean temperature change between the LGM ocean and today's ocean was 2.7 +/- 0.6 degrees C. Although this error is large compared to the observed change, this finding is consistent with most previous estimates of LGM deep ocean temperature based on foraminiferal delta O-18 and sediment pore water delta O-18 and chlorinity.

2006
Schaefer, H, Whiticar MJ, Brook EJ, Petrenko VV, Ferretti DF, Severinghaus JP.  2006.  Ice record of delta C-13 for atmospheric CH4 across the Younger Dryas-Preboreal transition. Science. 313:1109-1112.   10.1126/science.1126562   AbstractWebsite

We report atmospheric methane carbon isotope ratios (delta(CH4)-C-13) from the Western Greenland ice margin spanning the Younger Dryas - to - Preboreal (YD-PB) transition. Over the recorded similar to 800 years, delta(CH4)-C-13 was around - 46 per mil (parts per thousand); that is, similar to 1 parts per thousand higher than in the modern atmosphere and similar to 5.5 parts per thousand higher than would be expected from budgets without C-13-rich anthropogenic emissions. This requires higher natural C-13-rich emissions or stronger sink fractionation than conventionally assumed. Constant delta(CH4)-C-13 during the rise in methane concentration at the YD-PB transition is consistent with additional emissions from tropical wetlands, or aerobic plant CH4 production, or with a multisource scenario. A marine clathrate source is unlikely.