Publications

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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.

Mitchell, LE, Buizert C, Brook EJ, Breton DJ, Fegyveresi J, Baggenstos D, Orsi A, Severinghaus J, Alley RB, Albert M, Rhodes RH, McConnell JR, Sigl M, Maselli O, Gregory S, Ahn J.  2015.  Observing and modeling the influence of layering on bubble trapping in polar firn. Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres. 120:2558-2574.   10.1002/2014jd022766   AbstractWebsite

Interpretation of ice core trace gas records depends on an accurate understanding of the processes that smooth the atmospheric signal in the firn. Much work has been done to understand the processes affecting air transport in the open pores of the firn, but a paucity of data from air trapped in bubbles in the firn-ice transition region has limited the ability to constrain the effect of bubble closure processes. Here we present high-resolution measurements of firn density, methane concentrations, nitrogen isotopes, and total air content that show layering in the firn-ice transition region at the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) Divide ice core site. Using the notion that bubble trapping is a stochastic process, we derive a new parameterization for closed porosity that incorporates the effects of layering in a steady state firn modeling approach. We include the process of bubble trapping into an open-porosity firn air transport model and obtain a good fit to the firn core data. We find that layering broadens the depth range over which bubbles are trapped, widens the modeled gas age distribution of air in closed bubbles, reduces the mean gas age of air in closed bubbles, and introduces stratigraphic irregularities in the gas age scale that have a peak-to-peak variability of 10 years at WAIS Divide. For a more complete understanding of gas occlusion and its impact on ice core records, we suggest that this experiment be repeated at sites climatically different from WAIS Divide, for example, on the East Antarctic plateau.

2014
Schilt, A, Brook EJ, Bauska TK, Baggenstos D, Fischer H, Joos F, Petrenko VV, Schaefer H, Schmitt J, Severinghaus JP, Spahni R, Stocker TF.  2014.  Isotopic constraints on marine and terrestrial N2O emissions during the last deglaciation. Nature. 516:234-+.   10.1038/nature13971   AbstractWebsite

Nitrous oxide (N2O) is an important greenhouse gas and ozone-depleting substance that has anthropogenic as well as natural marine and terrestrial sources(1). The tropospheric N2O concentrations have varied substantially in the past in concert with changing climate on glacial-interglacial and millennial timescales(2-8). It is not well understood, however, how N2O emissions from marine and terrestrial sources change in response to varying environmental conditions. The distinct isotopic compositions of marine and terrestrial N2O sources can help disentangle the relative changes in marine and terrestrial N2O emissions during past climate variations(4,9,10). Here we present N2O concentration and isotopic data for the last deglaciation, from 16,000 to 10,000 years before present, retrieved from air bubbles trapped in polar ice at Taylor Glacier, Antarctica. With the help of our data and a box model of the N2O cycle, we find a 30 per cent increase in total N2O emissions from the late glacial to the interglacial, with terrestrial and marine emissions contributing equally to the overall increase and generally evolving in parallel over the last deglaciation, even though there is no a priori connection between the drivers of the two sources. However, we find that terrestrial emissions dominated on centennial timescales, consistent with a state-of-the-art dynamic global vegetation and land surface process model that suggests that during the last deglaciation emission changes were strongly influenced by temperature and precipitation patterns over land surfaces. The results improve our understanding of the drivers of natural N2O emissions and are consistent with the idea that natural N2O emissions will probably increase in response to anthropogenic warming(11).

2012
Orsi, AJ, Cornuelle BD, Severinghaus JP.  2012.  Little Ice Age cold interval in West Antarctica: Evidence from borehole temperature at the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) Divide. Geophysical Research Letters. 39   10.1029/2012gl051260   AbstractWebsite

The largest climate anomaly of the last 1000 years in the Northern Hemisphere was the Little Ice Age (LIA) from 1400-1850 C. E., but little is known about the signature of this event in the Southern Hemisphere, especially in Antarctica. We present temperature data from a 300 m borehole at the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) Divide. Results show that WAIS Divide was colder than the last 1000-year average from 1300 to 1800 C.E. The temperature in the time period 1400-1800 C.E. was on average 0.52 +/- 0.28 degrees C colder than the last 100-year average. This amplitude is about half of that seen at Greenland Summit (GRIP). This result is consistent with the idea that the LIA was a global event, probably caused by a change in solar and volcanic forcing, and was not simply a seesaw-type redistribution of heat between the hemispheres as would be predicted by some ocean-circulation hypotheses. The difference in the magnitude of the LIA between Greenland and West Antarctica suggests that the feedbacks amplifying the radiative forcing may not operate in the same way in both regions. Citation: Orsi, A. J., B. D. Cornuelle, and J. P. Severinghaus (2012), Little Ice Age cold interval in West Antarctica: Evidence from borehole temperature at the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) Divide, Geophys. Res. Lett., 39, L09710, doi: 10.1029/2012GL051260.

2011
Kobashi, T, Kawamura K, Severinghaus JP, Barnola JM, Nakaegawa T, Vinther BM, Johnsen SJ, Box JE.  2011.  High variability of Greenland surface temperature over the past 4000 years estimated from trapped air in an ice core. Geophysical Research Letters. 38   10.1029/2011gl049444   AbstractWebsite

Greenland recently incurred record high temperatures and ice loss by melting, adding to concerns that anthropogenic warming is impacting the Greenland ice sheet and in turn accelerating global sea-level rise. Yet, it remains imprecisely known for Greenland how much warming is caused by increasing atmospheric greenhouse gases versus natural variability. To address this need, we reconstruct Greenland surface snow temperature variability over the past 4000 years at the GISP2 site (near the Summit of the Greenland ice sheet; hereafter referred to as Greenland temperature) with a new method that utilises argon and nitrogen isotopic ratios from occluded air bubbles. The estimated average Greenland snow temperature over the past 4000 years was -30.7 degrees C with a standard deviation of 1.0 degrees C and exhibited a long-term decrease of roughly 1.5 degrees C, which is consistent with earlier studies. The current decadal average surface temperature (2001-2010) at the GISP2 site is -29.9 degrees C. The record indicates that warmer temperatures were the norm in the earlier part of the past 4000 years, including century-long intervals nearly 1 C warmer than the present decade (20012010). Therefore, we conclude that the current decadal mean temperature in Greenland has not exceeded the envelope of natural variability over the past 4000 years, a period that seems to include part of the Holocene Thermal Maximum. Notwithstanding this conclusion, climate models project that if anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions continue, the Greenland temperature would exceed the natural variability of the past 4000 years sometime before the year 2100. Citation: Kobashi, T., K. Kawamura, J. P. Severinghaus, J.-M. Barnola, T. Nakaegawa, B. M. Vinther, S. J. Johnsen, and J. E. Box (2011), High variability of Greenland surface temperature over the past 4000 years estimated from trapped air in an ice core, Geophys. Res. Lett., 38, L21501, doi:10.1029/2011GL049444.

Ritz, SP, Stocker TF, Severinghaus JP.  2011.  Noble gases as proxies of mean ocean temperature: sensitivity studies using a climate model of reduced complexity. Quaternary Science Reviews. 30:3728-3741.   10.1016/j.quascirev.2011.09.021   AbstractWebsite

Past global mean ocean temperature may be reconstructed from measurements of atmospheric noble gas concentrations in ice core bubbles. Assuming conservation of noble gases in the atmosphere-ocean system, the total concentration within the ocean mostly depends on solubility which itself is temperature dependent. Therefore, the colder the ocean, the more gas can be dissolved and the less remains in the atmosphere. Here, the characteristics of this novel paleoclimatic proxy are explored by implementing krypton, xenon, argon, and N(2) into a reduced-complexity climate model. The relationship between noble gas concentrations and global mean ocean temperature is investigated and their sensitivities to changes in ocean volume, ocean salinity, sea-level pressure and geothermal heat flux are quantified. We conclude that atmospheric noble gas concentrations are suitable proxies of global mean ocean temperature. Changes in ocean volume need to be considered when reconstructing ocean temperatures from noble gases. Calibration curves are provided to translate ice-core measurements of krypton, xenon, and argon into a global mean ocean temperature change. Simulated noble gas-to-nitrogen ratios for the last glacial maximum are delta Kr(atm) = -1.10 parts per thousand, delta Xe(atm) = -3.25 parts per thousand, and delta Ar(atm) = -0.29 parts per thousand. The uncertainty of the krypton calibration curve due to uncertainties of the ocean saturation concentrations is estimated to be +/- 0.3 degrees C. An additional 0.3 C uncertainty must be added for the last deglaciation and up to +/- 0.4 degrees C for earlier transitions due to age-scale uncertainties in the sea-level reconstructions. Finally, the fingerprint of idealized Dansgaard-Oeschger events in the atmospheric krypton-to-nitrogen ratio is presented. A delta Kr(atm) change of up to 0.34 parts per thousand is simulated for a 2 kyr Dansgaard-Oeschger event, and a change of up to 0.48 parts per thousand is simulated for a 4 kyr event. (C) 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

2005
Brook, EJ, White JWC, Schilla ASM, Bender ML, Barnett B, Severinghaus JP, Taylor KC, Alley RB, Steig EJ.  2005.  Timing of millennial-scale climate change at Siple Dome, West Antarctica, during the last glacial period. Quaternary Science Reviews. 24:1333-1343.   10.1016/j.quascirev.2005.02.002   AbstractWebsite

Using atmospheric methane and the isotopic composition of O-2 as correlation tools, we place the 6D record of ice from the Siple Dome (West Antarctica) ice core on a precise common chronology with the GISP2 (Greenland) ice core for the period from 9 to 57 ka. The onset of major millennial warming events in Siple Dome preceded major abrupt warmings in Greenland, and the pattern of millennial change at Siple Dome was broadly similar, though not identical, to that previously observed for the Byrd ice core (also in West Antarctica). The addition of Siple Dome to the database of well-dated Antarctic paleoclimate records supports the case for a coherent regional pattern of millennial-scale climate change in Antarctica during much of the last ice age and glacial-interglacial transition.

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].