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2018
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.

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
Seltzer, AM, Buizert C, Baggenstos D, Brook EJ, Ahn J, Yang JW, Severinghaus JP.  2017.  Does delta O-18 of O-2 record meridional shifts in tropical rainfall? Climate of the Past. 13:1323-1338.   10.5194/cp-13-1323-2017   AbstractWebsite

Marine sediments, speleothems, paleo-lake elevations, and ice core methane and delta O-18 of O-2 (delta O-18(atm)) records provide ample evidence for repeated abrupt meridional shifts in tropical rainfall belts throughout the last glacial cycle. To improve understanding of the impact of abrupt events on the global terrestrial biosphere, we present composite records of delta O-18(atm) and inferred changes in fractionation by the global terrestrial biosphere (Delta epsilon(LAND)) from discrete gas measurements in the WAIS Divide (WD) and Siple Dome (SD) Antarctic ice cores. On the common WD timescale, it is evident that maxima in Delta epsilon(LAND) are synchronous with or shortly follow small-amplitude WD CH4 peaks that occur within Heinrich stadials 1, 2, 4, and 5 - periods of low atmospheric CH4 concentrations. These local CH4 maxima have been suggested as markers of abrupt climate responses to Heinrich events. Based on our analysis of the modern seasonal cycle of gross primary productivity (GPP)-weighted delta(OatmO)-O-18 of terrestrial precipitation (the source water for atmospheric O-2 production), we propose a simple mechanism by which Delta epsilon(LAND) tracks the centroid latitude of terrestrial oxygen production. As intense rainfall and oxygen production migrate northward, Delta epsilon(LAND) should decrease due to the underlying meridional gradient in rainfall delta O-18. A southward shift should increase Delta epsilon(LAND). Monsoon intensity also influences delta O-18 of precipitation, and although we cannot determine the relative contributions of the two mechanisms, both act in the same direction. Therefore, we suggest that abrupt increases in Delta epsilon(LAND) unambiguously imply a southward shift of tropical rainfall. The exact magnitude of this shift, however, remains under-constrained by Delta epsilon(LAND).

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.

2016
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.

2008
Kobashi, T, Severinghaus JP, Barnola JM.  2008.  4 +/- 1.5 degrees C abrupt warming 11,270 yr ago identified from trapped air in Greenland ice. Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 268:397-407.   10.1016/j.epsl.2008.01.032   AbstractWebsite

Nitrogen and argon isotopes in air trapped in a Greenland ice core (GISP2) show two prominent peaks in the interval 11,800-10,800 B.P., which indicate two large abrupt warming events. The first abrupt wanning (10 +/- 4 degrees C) is the widely documented event at the end of the Younger Dryas. Here, we report on the second abrupt warming (4 +/- 1.5 degrees C), which occurred at the end of a short lived cooler interval known as the Preboreal Oscillation (11,270 +/- 30 B.P.). A rapid snow accumulation increase suggests that the climatic transition may have occurred within a few years. The character of the Preboreal Oscillation and the subsequent abrupt warming is similar to the Dansgaard-Oeschger (D/O) events in the last glacial period, suggestive of a common mechanism, but different from another large climate change at 8,200 B.P., in which cooling was abrupt but subsequent warming was gradual. The large abrupt warming at 11,270 B.P. may be considered to be the final D/O event prior to the arrival of the present stable and warm epoch. (c) 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

2007
Hamme, RC, Severinghaus JP.  2007.  Trace gas disequilibria during deep-water formation. Deep-Sea Research Part I-Oceanographic Research Papers. 54:939-950.   10.1016/j.dsr.2007.03.008   AbstractWebsite

We present high-precision measurements by a new isotope dilution technique of a suite of inert gases in the North Pacific. Remarkably smooth gradients in Ar, Kr and Xe from near equilibrium in intermediate waters to several percent undersaturated in deep waters were observed. The general pattern in the deepest waters was that Ar, Kr and Xe were undersaturated (Ar least and Xe most), while N-2 was close to equilibrium, and Ne was supersaturated. We propose that this pattern was produced by the interaction between the different physical properties of the gases (solubility and the temperature dependence of solubility) with the rapid cooling and high wind speeds that characterize deep-water formation regions. In a simple model of deep-water formation by convection, the saturations of the more temperature-sensitive gases were quickly driven down by rapid cooling and could not reequilibrate with the atmosphere before the end of the winter. In contrast, the gas exchange rate of the more bubble-sensitive gases (Ne and N-2) was able to meet or exceed the drawdown by cooling. Our simple convection model demonstrates that the heavier noble gases (Ar, Kr and Xe) are sensitive on seasonal timescales to the competing effects of cooling and air-sea gas exchange that are also important to setting the concentration Of CO2 in newly formed waters. (c) 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

2000
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.

1999
Severinghaus, JP, Brook EJ.  1999.  Abrupt climate change at the end of the last glacial period inferred from trapped air in polar ice. Science. 286:930-934.   10.1126/science.286.5441.930   AbstractWebsite

The last glacial period was terminated by an abrupt warming event in the North Atlantic similar to 15,000 years before the present, and warming events of similar age have been reported from Low Latitudes. Understanding the mechanism of this termination requires that the precise relative timing of abrupt climate warming in the tropics versus the North Atlantic be known. Nitrogen and argon isotopes in trapped air in Greenland ice show that the Greenland Summit warmed 9 +/- 3 degrees C over a period of several decades, beginning 14,672 years ago. Atmospheric methane concentrations rose abruptly over a similar to 50-year period and began their increase 20 to 30 years after the onset of the abrupt Greenland warming. These data suggest that tropical climate became warmer or wetter (or both) similar to 20 to 80 years after the onset of Greenland warming, supporting a North Atlantic rather than a tropical trigger for the climate event.