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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).

2015
Rhodes, RH, Brook EJ, Chiang JCH, Blunier T, Maselli OJ, McConnell JR, Romanini D, Severinghaus JP.  2015.  Enhanced tropical methane production in response to iceberg discharge in the North Atlantic. Science. 348:1016-1019.   10.1126/science.1262005   AbstractWebsite

The causal mechanisms responsible for the abrupt climate changes of the Last Glacial Period remain unclear. One major difficulty is dating ice-rafted debris deposits associated with Heinrich events: Extensive iceberg influxes into the North Atlantic Ocean linked to global impacts on climate and biogeochemistry. In a new ice core record of atmospheric methane with ultrahigh temporal resolution, we find abrupt methane increases within Heinrich stadials 1, 2, 4, and 5 that, uniquely, have no counterparts in Greenland temperature proxies. Using a heuristic model of tropical rainfall distribution, we propose that Hudson Strait Heinrich events caused rainfall intensification over Southern Hemisphere land areas, thereby producing excess methane in tropical wetlands. Our findings suggest that the climatic impacts of Heinrich events persisted for 740 to 1520 years.

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".

2014
Seierstad, IK, Abbott PM, Bigler M, Blunier T, Bourne AJ, Brook E, Buchardt SL, Buizert C, Clausen HB, Cook E, Dahl-Jensen D, Davies SM, Guillevic M, Johnsen SJ, Pedersen DS, Popp TJ, Rasmussen SO, Severinghaus JP, Svensson A, Vinther BM.  2014.  Consistently dated records from the Greenland GRIP, GISP2 and NGRIP ice cores for the past 104 ka reveal regional millennial-scale delta O-18 gradients with possible Heinrich event imprint. Quaternary Science Reviews. 106:29-46.   10.1016/j.quascirev.2014.10.032   AbstractWebsite

We present a synchronization of the NGRIP, GRIP and GISP2 ice cores onto a master chronology extending back to 104 ka before present, providing a consistent chronological framework for these three Greenland records. The synchronization aligns distinct peaks in volcanic proxy records and other impurity records (chemo-stratigraphic matching) and assumes that these layers of elevated impurity content represent the same, instantaneous event in the past at all three sites. More than 900 marker horizons between the three cores have been identified and our matching is independently confirmed by 24 new and previously identified volcanic ash (tephra) tie-points. Using the reference horizons, we transfer the widely used Greenland ice-core chronology, GICC05modelext, to the two Summit cores, GRIP and GISP2. Furthermore, we provide gas chronologies for the Summit cores that are consistent with the GICC05modelext timescale by utilizing both existing and new gas data (CH4 concentration and delta N-15 of N-2). We infer that the accumulation contrast between the stadial and interstadial phases of the glacial period was -10% greater at Summit compared to at NGRIP. The delta O-18 temperature-proxy records from NGRIP, GRIP, and GISP2 are generally very similar and display synchronous behaviour at climate transitions. The 1180 differences between Summit and NGRIP, however, changed slowly over the Last Glacial Interglacial cycle and also underwent abrupt millennial-to-centennial-scale variations. We suggest that this observed latitudinal delta O-18 gradient in Greenland during the glacial period is the result of 1) relatively higher degree of precipitation with a Pacific signature at NGRIP, 2) increased summer bias in precipitation at Summit, and 3) enhanced Rayleigh distillation due to an increased source-to-site distance and a potentially larger source-to-site temperature gradient. We propose that these processes are governed by changes in the North American Ice Sheet (NAIS) volume and North Atlantic sea-ice extent and/or sea-surface temperatures (SST) on orbital timescales, and that changing sea-ice extent and SSTs are the driving mechanisms on shorter timescales. Finally, we observe that maxima in the Summit NGRIP delta O-18 difference are roughly coincident with prominent Heinrich events. This suggests that the climatic reorganization that takes place during stadials with Heinrich events, possibly driven by a southward expansion of sea ice and low SSTs in the North Atlantic, are recorded in the ice-core records. (C) 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Orsi, AJ, Cornuelle BD, Severinghaus JP.  2014.  Magnitude and temporal evolution of Dansgaard-Oeschger event 8 abrupt temperature change inferred from nitrogen and argon isotopes in GISP2 ice using a new least-squares inversion. Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 395:81-90.   10.1016/j.epsl.2014.03.030   AbstractWebsite

Polar temperature is often inferred from water isotopes in ice cores. However, non-temperature effects on 3180 are important during the abrupt events of the last glacial period, such as changes in the seasonality of precipitation, the northward movement of the storm track, and the increase in accumulation. These effects complicate the interpretation of 8180 as a temperature proxy. Here, we present an independent surface temperature reconstruction, which allows us to test the relationship between delta O-18(ice) and temperature, during Dansgaard-Oeschger event 8, 38.2 thousand yrs ago using new delta N-15 and delta Ar-40 data from the GISP2 ice core in Greenland. This temperature reconstruction relies on a new inversion of inert gas isotope data using generalized least-squares, and includes a robust uncertainty estimation. We find that both temperature and delta O-18 increased in two steps of 20 and 140 yrs, with an overall amplitude of 11.80 +/- 1.8 degrees C between the stadial and interstadial centennial-mean temperature. The coefficient alpha = d delta O-18/dT changes with each time-segment, which shows that non-temperature sources of fractionation have a significant contribution to the delta O-18 signal. When measured on century-averaged values, we find that alpha = d delta O-18/dT = 0.32 +/- 0.06%(0)/degrees C, which is similar to the glacial/Holocene value of 0.328%(o)/degrees C. (C) 2014 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

2013
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.

Rasmussen, SO, Abbott PM, Blunier T, Bourne AJ, Brook E, Buchardt SL, Buizert C, Chappellaz J, Clausen HB, Cook E, Dahl-Jensen D, Davies SM, Guillevic M, Kipfstuhl S, Laepple T, Seierstad IK, Severinghaus JP, Steffensen JP, Stowasser C, Svensson A, Vallelonga P, Vinther BM, Wilhelms F, Winstrup M.  2013.  A first chronology for the North Greenland Eemian Ice Drilling (NEEM) ice core. Climate of the Past. 9:2713-2730.   10.5194/cp-9-2713-2013   AbstractWebsite

A stratigraphy-based chronology for the North Greenland Eemian Ice Drilling (NEEM) ice core has been derived by transferring the annual layer counted Greenland Ice Core Chronology 2005 (GICC05) and its model extension (GICC05modelext) from the NGRIP core to the NEEM core using 787 match points of mainly volcanic origin identified in the electrical conductivity measurement (ECM) and dielectrical profiling (DEP) records. Tephra horizons found in both the NEEM and NGRIP ice cores are used to test the matching based on ECM and DEP and provide five additional horizons used for the timescale transfer. A thinning function reflecting the accumulated strain along the core has been determined using a Dansgaard-Johnsen flow model and an isotope-dependent accumulation rate parameterization. Flow parameters are determined from Monte Carlo analysis constrained by the observed depth-age horizons. In order to construct a chronology for the gas phase, the ice age-gas age difference (Delta age) has been reconstructed using a coupled firn densification-heat diffusion model. Temperature and accumulation inputs to the Delta age model, initially derived from the water isotope proxies, have been adjusted to optimize the fit to timing constraints from delta N-15 of nitrogen and high-resolution methane data during the abrupt onset of Greenland interstadials. The ice and gas chronologies and the corresponding thinning function represent the first chronology for the NEEM core, named GICC05modelext-NEEM-1. Based on both the flow and firn modelling results, the accumulation history for the NEEM site has been reconstructed. Together, the timescale and accumulation reconstruction provide the necessary basis for further analysis of the records from NEEM.

2011
Brook, EJ, Severinghaus JP.  2011.  Methane and megafauna. Nature Geoscience. 4:271-272.   10.1038/ngeo1140   AbstractWebsite
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2010
Severinghaus, JP, Albert MR, Courville ZR, Fahnestock MA, Kawamura K, Montzka SA, Muhle J, Scambos TA, Shields E, Shuman CA, Suwa M, Tans P, Weiss RF.  2010.  Deep air convection in the firn at a zero-accumulation site, central Antarctica. Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 293:359-367.   10.1016/j.epsl.2010.03.003   AbstractWebsite

Ice cores provide unique archives of past atmospheres and climate, but interpretation of trapped-gas records and their climatic significance has been hampered by a poor knowledge of the prevalence of air convection in the firn layer on top of polar ice sheets. In particular, the phasing of greenhouse gases and climate from ice cores has been obscured by a discrepancy between empirical and model-based estimates of the age difference between trapped gases and enclosing ice, which may be due to air convection. Here we show that deep air convection (>23 m) occurs at a windy, near-zero-accumulation rate site in central Antarctica known informally as the Megadunes site (80.77914 degrees S, 124.48796 degrees E). Deep convection is evident in depth profiles of air withdrawn from the firn layer, in the observed pattern of the nitrogen isotope ratio (15)N/(14)N, the argon isotope ratio (40)Ar/(36)Ar, and in the mixing ratios of the anthropogenic halocarbons methyl chloroform (CH(3)CCl(3)) and HFC-134a (CH(2)FCF(3)). Transport parameters (diffusivities) were inferred and air was dated using measured carbon dioxide (CO(2)) and methane (CH(4)) mixing ratios, by comparing with the Law Dome atmospheric record, which shows that these are the oldest firn air samples ever recovered (CO(2) mean age = 1863 AD). The low accumulation rate and the consequent intense metamorphism of the firn (due to prolonged exposure to seasonal temperature cycling) likely contribute to deep air convection via large grain size and vertical cracks that act as conduits for vigorous air motion. The Megadunes site provides a possible modern analog for the glacial conditions in the Vostok, Dome Fuji, and Dome C ice core records and a possible explanation for lower-than-expected (15)N/(14)N ratios in trapped air bubbles at these times. A general conclusion is that very low accumulation rate causes deep air convection via its effect on firn structural characteristics. (C) 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

2009
Severinghaus, JP, Beaudette R, Headly MA, Taylor K, Brook EJ.  2009.  Oxygen-18 of O2 Records the Impact of Abrupt Climate Change on the Terrestrial Biosphere. Science. 324:1431-1434.   10.1126/science.1169473   AbstractWebsite

Photosynthesis and respiration occur widely on Earth's surface, and the O-18/O-16 ratio of the oxygen produced and consumed varies with climatic conditions. As a consequence, the history of climate is reflected in the deviation of the O-18/O-16 of air (delta O-18(atm)) from seawater delta O-18 (known as the Dole effect). We report variations in delta O-18(atm) over the past 60,000 years related to Heinrich and Dansgaard-Oeschger events, two modes of abrupt climate change observed during the last ice age. Correlations with cave records support the hypothesis that the Dole effect is primarily governed by the strength of the Asian and North African monsoons and confirm that widespread changes in low-latitude terrestrial rainfall accompanied abrupt climate change. The rapid delta O-18(atm) changes can also be used to synchronize ice records by providing global time markers.

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.

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
Grachev, AM, Brook EJ, Severinghaus JP.  2007.  Abrupt changes in atmospheric methane at the MIS 5b-5a transition. Geophysical Research Letters. 34   10.1029/2007gl029799   AbstractWebsite

New ice core analyses show that the prominent rise in atmospheric methane concentration at Dansgaard-Oeschger event 21 was interrupted by a century-long 20% decline, which was previously unrecognized. The reversal was found in a new similar to 100-year resolution study of methane in the GISP2 ice core, encompassing the beginning of D-O event 21, which also corresponds to the transition from MIS 5b to 5a. Although a corresponding reversal (within age uncertainty) is observed in climate proxies measured in GISP2 ice, including delta O-18(ice), electrical conductivity, light scattering, and several ions, this feature has not been discussed previously. Abrupt changes in methane are paralleled by changes in delta N-15 of trapped air, a quantity that reflects local temperature change at Greenland summit. The reversal described here supports the hypothesis that climate can be unstable during major transitions, as was previously described for the last deglaciation.

Kobashi, T, Severinghaus JP, Brook EJ, Barnola JM, Grachev AM.  2007.  Precise timing and characterization of abrupt climate change 8200 years ago from air trapped in polar ice. Quaternary Science Reviews. 26:1212-1222.   10.1016/j.quascirev.2007.01.009   AbstractWebsite

How fast and how much climate can change has significant implications for concerns about future climate changes and their potential impacts on society. An abrupt climate change 8200 years ago (8.2 ka event) provides a test case to understand possible future climatic variability. Here, methane concentration (taken as an indicator for terrestrial hydrology) and nitrogen isotopes (Greenland temperature) in trapped air in a Greenland ice core (GISP2) are employed to scrutinize the evolution of the 8.2 ka event. The synchronous change in methane and nitrogen implies that the 8.2 ka event was a synchronous event (within +/- 4 years) at a hemispheric scale, as indicated by recent climate model results [Legrande, A. N., Schmidt, G. A., Shindell, D. T., Field, C. V., Miller, R. L., Koch, D. M., Faluvegi, G., Hoffmann, G., 2006. Consistent simulations of multiple proxy responses to an abrupt climate change event. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 103, 837-842]. The event began with a large-scale general cooling and drying around similar to 8175 +/- 30 years BP (Before Present, where Present is 1950 AD). Greenland temperature cooled by 3.3 +/- 1.1 degrees C (decadal average) in less than similar to 20 years, and atmospheric methane concentration decreased by similar to 80 +/- 25 ppb over similar to 40 years, corresponding to a 15 +/- 5% emission reduction. Hemispheric scale cooling and drying.. inferred from many paleoclimate proxies, likely contributed to this emission reduction. In central Greenland, the coldest period lasted for similar to 60 years, interrupted by a milder interval of a few decades, and temperature subsequently warmed in several steps over similar to 70 years. The total duration of the 8.2 ka event was roughly 150 years. (c) 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

2006
Buerki, PR, Jackson BC, Schilling T, Rufer T, Severinghaus JP.  2006.  Improved helium exchange gas cryostat and sample tube designs for automated gas sampling and cryopumping. Geochemistry Geophysics Geosystems. 7   10.1029/2006gc001341   AbstractWebsite

[ 1] In order to eliminate the use of liquid helium for the extraction of atmospheric gases from polar ice cores, two units of a redesigned top load helium exchange gas cryostat were built and tested. The cryostats feature the shortest and largest diameter sample wells built to date, a base temperature below 7 Kelvin, and a sample well without baffles. The cryostats allowed shortening the length and thus increasing the gas pressure inside our sample tubes by 58% and increasing the amount of sample ending up in the mass spectrometer by 4.4%. The cryostats can either be used as mobile stand-alone units for manual gas processing lines or integrated into a fully automated vacuum extraction and gas analysis line. For the latter application the cryostat was equipped with a custom-designed automated changeover system.

2004
Taylor, KC, White JWC, Severinghaus JP, Brook EJ, Mayewski PA, Alley RB, Steig EJ, Spencer MK, Meyerson E, Meese DA, Lamorey GW, Grachev A, Gow AJ, Barnett BA.  2004.  Abrupt climate change around 22 ka on the Siple Coast of Antarctica. Quaternary Science Reviews. 23:7-15.   10.1016/j.quascirev.2003.09.004   AbstractWebsite

A new ice core from Siple Dome, Antarctica suggests the surface temperature increased by similar to6degreesC in just several decades at approximately 22 ka BP. This abrupt change did not occur 500 kin away in the Byrd ice core, or in climate proxy records in the Siple Dome core indicative of the mid-latitude Pacific. This demonstrates there was significant spatial heterogeneity in the response of the Antarctic climate during the last deglaciation and draws attention to unexplained mechanisms of abrupt climate change in Antarctica. (C) 2003 Elsevier Ltd. 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.

Grachev, AM, Severinghaus JP.  2003.  Laboratory determination of thermal diffusion constants for N-29(2)/N-28(2) in air at temperatures from-60 to 0 degrees C for reconstruction of magnitudes of abrupt climate changes using the ice core fossil-air paleothermometer. Geochimica Et Cosmochimica Acta. 67:345-360.   10.1016/s0016-7037(02)01115-8   AbstractWebsite

Rapid temperature change causes fractionation of isotopic gaseous species in air in firn (snow) by thermal diffusion, producing a signal that is preserved in trapped air bubbles as the snow forms ice. Using a model of heat penetration and gas diffusion in the firn, as well as the values of appropriate thermal diffusion constants, it is possible to reconstruct the magnitude of a particular paleoclimate change. Isotopic nitrogen in air serves as a convenient tracer for such paleoreconstruction, because the ratio N-29(2)/N-28(2) has stayed extremely constant in the atmosphere for greater than or equal to10(6) years. However, prior to this work no data were available for thermal diffusion of N-29(2)/N-28(2) in air, but only in pure N-2. We devised a laboratory experiment allowing fractionation of gases by thermal diffusion in a small, tightly controlled temperature difference. A mass spectrometer was employed in measuring the resulting fractionations yielding measurement precision greater than was attainable by earlier thermal diffusion investigators. Our laboratory experiments indicate that the value of the thermal diffusion sensitivity (Omega) for N-29(2)/N-28(2) in air is +(14.7 +/- 0.5) X 10(-3) per mil/degreesC when the average temperature is -30.0degreesC. The corresponding value for N-29(2)/N-28(2) in pure N-2 that we find is +(15.3 +/- 0.4) X 10(-3) per mil/degreesC at -30.6degreesC, in agreement with the previously available literature data within their large range of uncertainty. We find that an empirical equation, Omega = (8.656/T-K - 1232/T-K(2)) +/- 3% per mil/degreesC, describes the slight variation of the sensitivity values for N-29(2)/N-28(2) in air with temperature in the range of -60 to 0degreesC. A separate set of experiments also described in this paper rules out adsorption as a candidate for producing additional temperature change-driven fractionation of N-29(2)/N-28(2) in the firn air. The combined newly obtained data constitute a calibration of the fossil-air paleothermometer with respect to isotopic nitrogen and will serve to improve the estimates of the magnitudes of past abrupt climate changes recorded in ice cores. Copyright (C) 2003 Elsevier Science Ltd.