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Bauska, TK, Brook EJ, Marcott SA, Baggenstos D, Shackleton S, Severinghaus JP, Petrenko VV.  2018.  Controls on millennial-scale atmospheric CO2 variability during the last glacial period. Geophysical Research Letters. 45:7731-7740.   10.1029/2018gl077881   AbstractWebsite

Changes in atmospheric CO2 on millennial-to-centennial timescales are key components of past climate variability during the last glacial and deglacial periods (70-10 ka), yet the sources and mechanisms responsible for the CO2 fluctuations remain largely obscure. Here we report the C-13/C-12 ratio of atmospheric CO2 during a key interval of the last glacial period at submillennial resolution, with coeval histories of atmospheric CO2, CH4, and N2O concentrations. The carbon isotope data suggest that the millennial-scale CO2 variability in Marine Isotope Stage 3 is driven largely by changes in the organic carbon cycle, most likely by sequestration of respired carbon in the deep ocean. Centennial-scale CO2 variations, distinguished by carbon isotope signatures, are associated with both abrupt hydrological change in the tropics (e.g., Heinrich events) and rapid increases in Northern Hemisphere temperature (Dansgaard-Oeschger events). These events can be linked to modes of variability during the last deglaciation, thus suggesting that drivers of millennial and centennial CO2 variability during both periods are intimately linked to abrupt climate variability. Plain Language Summary Ice cores provide unique records of variations in atmospheric CO2 prior to the instrumental era. While it is clear that changes in atmospheric CO2 played a significant role in driving past climate change, it is unclear what in turn drove changes in atmospheric CO2. Here we investigate enigmatic changes in atmospheric CO2 levels during an interval of the last glacial period (similar to 50,000 to 35,000 years ago) that are associated with abrupt changes in polar climate. To determine the sources and sinks for atmospheric CO2, we measured the stable isotopes of carbon in CO2 and found that the primary source of carbon to the atmosphere was an organic carbon reservoir. Most likely, this carbon was sourced from a deep ocean reservoir that waxed and waned following changes in either the productivity of the surface ocean or stratification of the deep ocean. We also found that atmospheric CO2 can change on the centennial timescale during abrupt climate transitions in the Northern Hemisphere. This observation adds to a growing body of evidence that abrupt changes in atmospheric CO2 are an important component of past carbon cycle variability.

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.

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.

Bauska, TK, Baggenstos D, Brook EJ, Mix AC, Marcott SA, Petrenko VV, Schaefer H, Severinghaus JP, Lee JE.  2016.  Carbon isotopes characterize rapid changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide during the last deglaciation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 113:3465-3470.   10.1073/pnas.1513868113   AbstractWebsite

An understanding of the mechanisms that control CO2 change during glacial-interglacial cycles remains elusive. Here we help to constrain changing sources with a high-precision, high-resolution deglacial record of the stable isotopic composition of carbon in CO2 (delta C-13-CO2) in air extracted from ice samples from Taylor Glacier, Antarctica. During the initial rise in atmospheric CO2 from 17.6 to 15.5 ka, these data demarcate a decrease in delta C-13-CO2, likely due to a weakened oceanic biological pump. From 15.5 to 11.5 ka, the continued atmospheric CO2 rise of 40 ppm is associated with small changes in delta C-13-CO2, consistent with a nearly equal contribution from a further weakening of the biological pump and rising ocean temperature. These two trends, related to marine sources, are punctuated at 16.3 and 12.9 ka with abrupt, century-scale perturbations in delta C-13-CO2 that suggest rapid oxidation of organic land carbon or enhanced air-sea gas exchange in the Southern Ocean. Additional century-scale increases in atmospheric CO2 coincident with increases in atmospheric CH4 and Northern Hemisphere temperature at the onset of the Bolling (14.6-14.3 ka) and Holocene (11.6-11.4 ka) intervals are associated with small changes in delta C-13-CO2, suggesting a combination of sources that included rising surface ocean temperature.

Buizert, C, Adrian B, Ahn J, Albert M, Alley RB, Baggenstos D, Bauska TK, Bay RC, Bencivengo BB, Bentley CR, Brook EJ, Chellman NJ, Clow GD, Cole-Dai J, Conway H, Cravens E, Cuffey KM, Dunbar NW, Edwards JS, Fegyveresi JM, Ferris DG, Fitzpatrick JJ, Fudge TJ, Gibson CJ, Gkinis V, Goetz JJ, Gregory S, Hargreaves GM, Iverson N, Johnson JA, Jones TR, Kalk ML, Kippenhan MJ, Koffman BG, Kreutz K, Kuhl TW, Lebar DA, Lee JE, Marcott SA, Markle BR, Maselli OJ, McConnell JR, McGwire KC, Mitchell LE, Mortensen NB, Neff PD, Nishiizumi K, Nunn RM, Orsi AJ, Pasteris DR, Pedro JB, Pettit EC, Price PB, Priscu JC, Rhodes RH, Rosen JL, Schauer AJ, Schoenemann SW, Sendelbach PJ, Severinghaus JP, Shturmakov AJ, Sigl M, Slawny KR, Souney JM, Sowers TA, Spencer MK, Steig EJ, Taylor KC, Twickler MS, Vaughn BH, Voigt DE, Waddington ED, Welten KC, Wendricks AW, White JWC, Winstrup M, Wong GJ, Woodruff TE, Members WDP.  2015.  Precise interpolar phasing of abrupt climate change during the last ice age. Nature. 520:661-U169.   10.1038/nature14401   AbstractWebsite

The last glacial period exhibited abrupt Dansgaard-Oeschger climatic oscillations, evidence of which is preserved in a variety of Northern Hemisphere palaeodimate archives'. Ice cores show that Antarctica cooled during the warm phases of the Greenland Dansgaard-Oeschger cycle and vice versa''', suggesting an interhemispheric redistribution of heat through a mechanism called the bipolar seesaw(4-6). Variations in the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) strength are thought to have been important, but much uncertainty remains regarding the dynamics and trigger of these abrupt events'. Key information is contained in the relative phasing of hemispheric climate variations, yet the large, poorly constrained difference between gas age and ice age and the relatively low resolution of methane records from Antarctic ice cores have so far precluded methane-based synchronization at the required sub-centennial precision''''". Here we use a recently drilled high-accumulation Antarctic ice core to show that, on average, abrupt Greenland warming leads the corresponding Antarctic cooling onset by 218 +/- 92 years (2 sigma a) for DansgaardOeschger events, including the Bolling event; Greenland cooling leads the corresponding onset of Antarctic warming by 208 +/- 96 years. Our results demonstrate a north-to-south directionality of the abrupt climatic signal, which is propagated to the Southern Hemisphere high latitudes by oceanic rather than atmospheric processes. The similar interpolar phasing of warming and cooling transitions suggests that the transfer time of the climatic signal is independent of the AMOC background state. Our findings confirm a central role for ocean circulation in the bipolar seesaw and provide clear criteria for assessing hypotheses and model simulations of Dansgaard-Oeschger dynamics.

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.

Fudge, TJ, Steig EJ, Markle BR, Schoenemann SW, Ding QH, Taylor KC, McConnell JR, Brook EJ, Sowers T, White JWC, Alley RB, Cheng H, Clow GD, Cole-Dai J, Conway H, Cuffey KM, Edwards JS, Edwards RL, Edwards R, Fegyveresi JM, Ferris D, Fitzpatrick JJ, Johnson J, Hargreaves G, Lee JE, Maselli OJ, Mason W, McGwire KC, Mitchell LE, Mortensen N, Neff P, Orsi AJ, Popp TJ, Schauer AJ, Severinghaus JP, Sigl M, Spencer MK, Vaughn BH, Voigt DE, Waddington ED, Wang XF, Wong GJ, Members WDP.  2013.  Onset of deglacial warming in West Antarctica driven by local orbital forcing. Nature. 500:440-+.   10.1038/nature12376   AbstractWebsite

The cause of warming in the Southern Hemisphere during the most recent deglaciation remains a matter of debate(1,2). Hypotheses for a Northern Hemisphere trigger, through oceanic redistributions of heat, are based in part on the abrupt onset of warming seen in East Antarctic ice cores and dated to 18,000 years ago, which is several thousand years after high-latitude Northern Hemisphere summer insolation intensity began increasing from its minimum, approximately 24,000 years ago(3,4). An alternative explanation is that local solar insolation changes cause the Southern Hemisphere to warm independently(2,5). Here we present results from a new, annually resolved ice-core record from West Antarctica that reconciles these two views. The records show that 18,000 years ago snow accumulation in West Antarctica began increasing, coincident with increasing carbon dioxide concentrations, warming in East Antarctica and cooling in the Northern Hemisphere(6) associated with an abrupt decrease in Atlantic meridional overturning circulation(7). However, significant warming in West Antarctica began at least 2,000 years earlier. Circum-Antarctic sea-ice decline, driven by increasing local insolation, is the likely cause of this warming. The marine-influenced West Antarctic records suggest a more active role for the Southern Ocean in the onset of deglaciation than is inferred from ice cores in the East Antarctic interior, which are largely isolated from sea-ice changes.

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.

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.

Severinghaus, JP.  2009.  Southern see-saw seen. Nature. 457:1093-1094.   10.1038/4571093a   AbstractWebsite

The bipolar see-saw hypothesis provides an explanation for why temperature shifts in the two hemispheres were out of phase at certain times. The hypothesis has now passed a test of one of its predictions.

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.