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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.

2015
Buizert, C, Cuffey KM, Severinghaus JP, Baggenstos D, Fudge TJ, Steig EJ, Markle BR, Winstrup M, Rhodes RH, Brook EJ, Sowers TA, Clow GD, Cheng H, Edwards RL, Sigl M, McConnell JR, Taylor KC.  2015.  The WAIS Divide deep ice core WD2014 chronology - Part 1: Methane synchronization (68-31 kaBP) and the gas age-ice age difference. Climate of the Past. 11:153-173.   10.5194/cp-11-153-2015   AbstractWebsite

The West Antarctic Ice Sheet Divide (WAIS Divide, WD) ice core is a newly drilled, high-accumulation deep ice core that provides Antarctic climate records of the past similar to 68 ka at unprecedented temporal resolution. The upper 2850m (back to 31.2 ka BP) have been dated using annual-layer counting. Here we present a chronology for the deep part of the core (67.8-31.2 ka BP), which is based on stratigraphic matching to annual-layer-counted Greenland ice cores using globally well-mixed atmospheric methane. We calculate the WD gas age-ice age difference (Delta age) using a combination of firn densification modeling, ice-flow modeling, and a data set of delta N-15-N-2, a proxy for past firn column thickness. The largest Delta age at WD occurs during the Last Glacial Maximum, and is 525 +/- 120 years. Internally consistent solutions can be found only when assuming little to no influence of impurity content on densification rates, contrary to a recently proposed hypothesis. We synchronize the WD chronology to a linearly scaled version of the layer-counted Greenland Ice Core Chronology (GICC05), which brings the age of Dansgaard-Oeschger (DO) events into agreement with the U = Th absolutely dated Hulu Cave speleothem record. The small Delta age at WD provides valuable opportunities to investigate the timing of atmospheric greenhouse gas variations relative to Antarctic climate, as well as the interhemispheric phasing of the "bipolar seesaw".

2013
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.

Fischer, H, Severinghaus J, Brook E, Wolff E, Albert M, Alemany O, Arthern R, Bentley C, Blankenship D, Chappellaz J, Creyts T, Dahl-Jensen D, Dinn M, Frezzotti M, Fujita S, Gallee H, Hindmarsh R, Hudspeth D, Jugie G, Kawamura K, Lipenkov V, Miller H, Mulvaney R, Parrenin F, Pattyn F, Ritz C, Schwander J, Steinhage D, van Ommen T, Wilhelms F.  2013.  Where to find 1.5 million yr old ice for the IPICS "Oldest-Ice" ice core. Climate of the Past. 9:2489-2505.   10.5194/cp-9-2489-2013   AbstractWebsite

The recovery of a 1.5 million yr long ice core from Antarctica represents a keystone of our understanding of Quaternary climate, the progression of glaciation over this time period and the role of greenhouse gas cycles in this progression. Here we tackle the question of where such ice may still be found in the Antarctic ice sheet. We can show that such old ice is most likely to exist in the plateau area of the East Antarctic ice sheet (EAIS) without stratigraphic disturbance and should be able to be recovered after careful pre-site selection studies. Based on a simple ice and heat flow model and glaciological observations, we conclude that positions in the vicinity of major domes and saddle position on the East Antarctic Plateau will most likely have such old ice in store and represent the best study areas for dedicated reconnaissance studies in the near future. In contrast to previous ice core drill site selections, however, we strongly suggest significantly reduced ice thickness to avoid bottom melting. For example for the geothermal heat flux and accumulation conditions at Dome C, an ice thickness lower than but close to about 2500m would be required to find 1.5 Myr old ice (i.e., more than 700m less than at the current EPICA Dome C drill site). Within this constraint, the resolution of an Oldest-Ice record and the distance of such old ice to the bedrock should be maximized to avoid ice flow disturbances, for example, by finding locations with minimum geothermal heat flux. As the geothermal heat flux is largely unknown for the EAIS, this parameter has to be carefully determined beforehand. In addition, detailed bedrock topography and ice flow history has to be reconstructed for candidates of an Oldest-Ice ice coring site. Finally, we argue strongly for rapid access drilling before any full, deep ice coring activity commences to bring datable samples to the surface and to allow an age check of the oldest ice.

2006
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.

2003
Caillon, N, Jouzel J, Severinghaus JP, Chappellaz J, Blunier T.  2003.  A novel method to study the phase relationship between Antarctic and Greenland climate. Geophysical Research Letters. 30   10.1029/2003gl017838   AbstractWebsite

A classical method for understanding the coupling between northern and southern hemispheres during millennial-scale climate events is based on the correlation between Greenland and Antarctic ice core records of atmospheric composition. Here we present a new approach based on the use of a single Antarctic ice core in which measurements of methane concentration and inert gas isotopes place constraints on the timing of a rapid climate change in the North and of its Antarctic counterpart. We applied it to the Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 5d/c transition early in the last glaciation similar to108 ky BP. Our results indicate that the Antarctic temperature increase occurred 2 ky before the methane increase, which is used as a time marker of the warming in the Northern Hemisphere. This result is in agreement with the "bipolar seesaw'' mechanism used to explain the phase relationships documented between 23 and 90 ky BP [Blunier and Brook, 2001].

Grachev, AM, Severinghaus JP.  2003.  Determining the thermal diffusion factor for Ar-40/Ar-36 in air to aid paleoreconstruction of abrupt climate change. Journal of Physical Chemistry A. 107:4636-4642.   10.1021/jp027817u   AbstractWebsite

The thermal diffusion factor (alpha(T)) of Ar-40/Ar-36 in air has been measured in the laboratory for the first time. The mean values of alpha(T) x 10(3) that we find at -30.0 degreesC are 9.85 +/- 0.04 for air and 11.25 +/- 0.03 for pure argon. The latter value is more precise than the data found in the literature. The temperature dependence of the thermal diffusion factor in air in the range -60 to -10 degreesC can be described by an empirical equation alpha(T) x 10(3) = 26.08 - 3952/ (+/-1%), where is the effective average temperature. Results of this study are valuable for reconstruction of magnitudes of abrupt climate change events recorded in Greenland ice cores. For one abrupt warming event similar to15,000 years ago, near the end of the last glacial period, these results yield a warming of 11 +/- 3 degreesC over several decades or less. Theoretical calculations are not yet able to provide the needed accuracy, and the experimental results for the thermal diffusion factor in air should be used for paleoenvironmental studies.

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.