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2019
Baggenstos, D, Haberli M, Schmitt J, Shackleton SA, Birner B, Severinghaus JP, Kellerhals T, Fischer H.  2019.  Earth's radiative imbalance from the Last Glacial Maximum to the present. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 116:14881-14886.   10.1073/pnas.1905447116   AbstractWebsite

The energy imbalance at the top of the atmosphere determines the temporal evolution of the global climate, and vice versa changes in the climate system can alter the planetary energy fluxes. This interplay is fundamental to our understanding of Earth's heat budget and the climate system. However, even today, the direct measurement of global radiative fluxes is difficult, such that most assessments are based on changes in the total energy content of the climate system. We apply the same approach to estimate the long-term evolution of Earth's radiative imbalance in the past. New measurements of noble gas-derived mean ocean temperature from the European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica Dome C ice core covering the last 40,000 y, combined with recent results from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet Divide ice core and the sea-level record, allow us to quantitatively reconstruct the history of the climate system energy budget. The temporal derivative of this quantity must be equal to the planetary radiative imbalance. During the deglaciation, a positive imbalance of typically +0.2 W.m(-2) is maintained for similar to 10,000 y, however, with two distinct peaks that reach up to 0.4 Wm(-2) during times of substantially reduced Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation. We conclude that these peaks are related to net changes in ocean heat uptake, likely due to rapid changes in North Atlantic deep-water formation and their impact on the global radiative balance, while changes in cloud coverage, albeit uncertain, may also factor into the picture.

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.

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.

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
Buizert, C, Severinghaus JP.  2016.  Dispersion in deep polar firn driven by synoptic-scale surface pressure variability. Cryosphere. 10:2099-2111.   10.5194/tc-10-2099-20160   AbstractWebsite

Commonly, three mechanisms of firn air transport are distinguished: molecular diffusion, advection, and near-surface convective mixing. Here we identify and describe a fourth mechanism, namely dispersion driven by synoptic-scale surface pressure variability (or barometric pumping). We use published gas chromatography experiments on firn samples to derive the along-flow dispersivity of firn, and combine this dispersivity with a dynamical air pressure propagation model forced by surface air pressure time series to estimate the magnitude of dispersive mixing in the firn. We show that dispersion dominates mixing within the firn lock-in zone. Trace gas concentrations measured in firn air samples from various polar sites confirm that dispersive mixing occurs. Including dispersive mixing in a firn air transport model suggests that our theoretical estimates have the correct order of magnitude, yet may overestimate the true dispersion. We further show that strong barometric pumping, such as at the Law Dome site, may reduce the gravitational enrichment of delta N-15-N-2 and other tracers below gravitational equilibrium, questioning the traditional definition of the lock-in depth as the depth where delta N-15 enrichment ceases. Last, we propose that Kr-86 excess may act as a proxy for past synoptic activity (or paleo-storminess) at the site.

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.

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.

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.

2012
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.

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.

Brook, EJ, Severinghaus JP.  2011.  Methane and megafauna. Nature Geoscience. 4:271-272.   10.1038/ngeo1140   AbstractWebsite
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Battle, MO, Severinghaus JP, Sofen ED, Plotkin D, Orsi AJ, Aydin M, Montzka SA, Sowers T, Tans PP.  2011.  Controls on the movement and composition of firn air at the West Antarctic Ice Sheet Divide. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. 11:11007-11021.   10.5194/acp-11-11007-2011   AbstractWebsite

We sampled interstitial air from the perennial snowpack (firn) at a site near the West Antarctic Ice Sheet Divide (WAIS-D) and analyzed the air samples for a wide variety of gas species and their isotopes. We find limited convective influence (1.4-5.2 m, depending on detection method) in the shallow firn, gravitational enrichment of heavy species throughout the diffusive column in general agreement with theoretical expectations, a similar to 10 m thick lock-in zone beginning at similar to 67 m, and a total firn thickness consistent with predictions of Kaspers et al. (2004). Our modeling work shows that the air has an age spread (spectral width) of 4.8 yr for CO2 at the firn-ice transition. We also find that advection of firn air due to the 22 cm yr(-1) ice-equivalent accumulation rate has a minor impact on firn air composition, causing changes that are comparable to other modeling uncertainties and intrinsic sample variability. Furthermore, estimates of 1 age (the gas age/ice age difference) at WAIS-D appear to be largely unaffected by bubble closure above the lock-in zone. Within the lock-in zone, small gas species and their isotopes show evidence of size-dependent fractionation due to permeation through the ice lattice with a size threshold of 0.36 nm, as at other sites. We also see an unequivocal and unprecedented signal of oxygen isotope fractionation within the lock-in zone, which we interpret as the mass-dependent expression of a size-dependent fractionation process.

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.

Kobashi, T, Severinghaus JP, Barnola JM, Kawamura K, Carter T, Nakaegawa T.  2010.  Persistent multi-decadal Greenland temperature fluctuation through the last millennium. Climatic Change. 100:733-756.   10.1007/s10584-009-9689-9   AbstractWebsite

Future Greenland temperature evolution will affect melting of the ice sheet and associated global sea-level change. Therefore, understanding Greenland temperature variability and its relation to global trends is critical. Here, we reconstruct the last 1,000 years of central Greenland surface temperature from isotopes of N(2) and Ar in air bubbles in an ice core. This technique provides constraints on decadal to centennial temperature fluctuations. We found that northern hemisphere temperature and Greenland temperature changed synchronously at periods of similar to 20 years and 40-100 years. This quasi-periodic multi-decadal temperature fluctuation persisted throughout the last millennium, and is likely to continue into the future.

2009
Severinghaus, JP.  2009.  Monsoons and Meltdowns. Science. 326:240-241.   10.1126/science.1179941   AbstractWebsite
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Grachev, AM, Brook EJ, Severinghaus JP, Pisias NG.  2009.  Relative timing and variability of atmospheric methane and GISP2 oxygen isotopes between 68 and 86 ka. Global Biogeochemical Cycles. 23   10.1029/2008gb003330   AbstractWebsite

The global biogeochemical cycle of methane has received wide attention because of methane's role as a greenhouse gas. Measurements of methane in air trapped in Greenland ice cores provide a high-resolution record of methane levels in the atmosphere over the past similar to 100 ka, providing clues about what controls the methane cycle on geologic timescales. Remarkable similarity between local temperature recorded in Greenland ice cores and changes in global methane concentrations has been noted in previous studies, with the inference that the local temperature variations have global significance, but the resolution of sampling and measurement precision limited fine-scale comparison of these variables. In this work a higher-precision (similar to 2 ppb) methane data set was obtained from the Greenland Ice Sheet Project 2 (GISP2) ice core for the time interval between 86 and 68 ka, encompassing three large abrupt warming events early in the last glacial period: Dansgaard-Oeschger (D-O) events 19, 20, and 21. The new data set consists of duplicate measurements at 158 depths, with average time resolution of 120 years. Such detailed measurements over D-O 21, the longest in Greenland records, have not yet been reported for other ice cores. The new data set documents short-term variability (similar to 20 ppb typical amplitude), which is remarkably persistent, and in many cases similar features are observed in the most detailed published delta(18)O(ice) record. High-precision GISP2 delta(15)N data show that changes in Greenland temperature are synchronous with the methane variations at the onset of D-O events 19, 20, and 21, supporting previous results from the Greenland Ice Core Project ice core for D-O 19 and 20. Cross-spectral analysis quantifies the extremely close similarity between the new methane record and the delta(18)O(ice) record. Because methane sources are widely distributed over the globe, this work further validates delta(18)O(ice) at Greenland summit as a geographically broad climate indicator on millennial to multicentennial timescales.

Schaefer, H, Petrenko VV, Brook EJ, Severinghaus JP, Reeh N, Melton JR, Mitchell L.  2009.  Ice stratigraphy at the Pakitsoq ice margin, West Greenland, derived from gas records. Journal of Glaciology. 55:411-421.   10.3189/002214309788816704   AbstractWebsite

Horizontal ice-core sites, where ancient ice is exposed at the glacier surface, offer unique opportunities for paleo-studies of trace components requiring large sample volumes. Following previous work at the Pakitsoq ice margin in West Greenland, we use a combination of geochemical parameters measured in the ice matrix (delta(18)O(ice)) and air occlusions (delta(18)O(atm), delta(15)N of N(2) and methane concentration) to date ice layers from specific climatic intervals. The data presented here expand our understanding of the stratigraphy and three-dimensional structure of ice layers outcropping at Pakitsoq. Sections containing ice from every distinct climatic interval during Termination I, including Last Glacial Maximum, Bolling/Allerod, Younger Dryas and the early Holocene, are identified. In the early Holocene, we find evidence for climatic fluctuations similar to signals found in deep ice cores from Greenland. A second glacial-interglacial transition exposed at the extreme margin of the ice is identified as another outcrop of Termination I (rather than the onset of the Eemian interglacial as postulated in earlier work). Consequently, the main structural feature at Pakitsoq is a large-scale anticline with accordion-type folding in both exposed sequences of the glacial-Holocene transition, leading to multiple layer duplications and age reversals.

2008
Kobashi, T, Severinghaus JP, Kawamura K.  2008.  Argon and nitrogen isotopes of trapped air in the GISP2 ice core during the Holocene epoch (0-11,500 B.P.): Methodology and implications for gas loss processes. Geochimica Et Cosmochimica Acta. 72:4675-4686.   10.1016/j.gca.2008.07.006   AbstractWebsite

Argon and nitrogen isotopes of air in polar ice cores provide constraints on past temperature and firn thickness, with relevance to past climate. We developed a method to simultaneously measure nitrogen and argon isotopes in trapped air from the same sample of polar ice. This method reduces the time required for analysis, allowing large numbers of measurements. We applied this method to the entire Holocene sequence of the GISP2 ice core (82.37-1692.22 m) with a 10-20 year sampling interval (670 depths). delta(40)Ar and delta(15)N show elevated values in the oldest part of the dataset, consistent with a thicker firn layer and increased temperature gradient in the firn due to the legacy of the abrupt warming at the end of the Younger Dryas interval and the gradual warming during the Preboreal interval (11.5-10.0 ka). The Preboreal Oscillation and the 8.2k event are clearly recorded. The data show remarkable stability after the 8.2k event. Available data suggests that post-coring gas loss involves two distinct types of fractionation. First, smaller molecules with less than a certain threshold size leak through the ice lattice with little isotopic fractionation. Second, gas composition changes via gas loss through microcracks, which induces isotopic fractionation. These two gas loss processes can explain most trends in our data and in other ice core records. (C) 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Petrenko, VV, Severinghaus JP, Brook EJ, Muhle J, Headly M, Harth CM, Schaefer H, Reeh N, Weiss RF, Lowe D, Smith AM.  2008.  A novel method for obtaining very large ancient air samples from ablating glacial ice for analyses of methane radiocarbon. Journal of Glaciology. 54:233-244.   10.3189/002214308784886135   AbstractWebsite

We present techniques for obtaining large (similar to 100 L STP) samples of ancient air for analysis of (14)C of methane ((14)CH(4)) and other trace constituents. Paleoatmospheric (14)CH(4) measurements should constrain the fossil fraction of past methane budgets, as well as provide a definitive test of methane clathrate involvement in large and rapid methane concentration ([CH(4)]) increases that accompanied rapid warming events during the last deglaciation. Air dating to the Younger Dryas-Preboreal and Oldest Dryas-Bolling abrupt climatic transitions was obtained by melt extraction from old glacial ice outcropping at an ablation margin in West Greenland. The outcropping ice and occluded air were dated using a combination of delta(15)N of N(2), delta(18)O of O(2), delta(18)O(ice) and [CH(4)] measurements. The [CH(4)] blank of the melt extractions was <4 ppb. Measurements of delta(18)O and delta(15)N indicated no significant gas isotopic fractionation from handling. Measured Ar/N(2), CFC-11 and CFC-12 in the samples indicated no significant contamination from ambient air. Ar/N(2), Kr/Ar and Xe/Ar ratios in the samples were used to quantify effects of gas dissolution during the melt extractions and correct the sample [CH(4)]. Corrected [CH(4)] is elevated over expected values by up to 132 ppb for most samples, suggesting some in situ CH(4) production in ice at this site.

2006
Lee, JY, Marti K, Severinghaus JP, Kawamura K, Yoo HS, Lee JB, Kim JS.  2006.  A redetermination of the isotopic abundances of atmospheric Ar. Geochimica Et Cosmochimica Acta. 70:4507-4512.   10.1016/j.gca.2006.06.1563   AbstractWebsite

Atmospheric argon measured on a dynamically operated mass spectrometer with an ion source magnet, indicated systematically larger Ar-40/Ar-16 ratios compared to the generally accepted value of Nier [Nier A.O., 1950. A redetermination of the relative abundances of the isotopes of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, argon, and potassium. Phys. Rev. 77, 789-793], 295.5 +/- 0.5, which has served as the standard for all isotopic measurements in geochemistry and cosmochemistry. Gravimetrically prepared mixtures of highly enriched Ar-36 and Ar-40 were utilized to redetermine the isotopic abundances of atmospheric Ar, using a dynamically operated isotope ratio mass spectrometer with minor modifications and special gas handling techniques to avoid fractionation. A new ratio Ar-40/Ar-36 = 298.56 +/- 0.31 was obtained with a precision of 0.1%, approximately 1% higher than the previously accepted value. Combined with the Ar-38/Ar-36 (0.1885 +/- 0.0003) measured with a VG5400 noble gas mass spectrometer in static operation, the percent abundances of Ar-36, Ar-38, and Ar-40 were determined to be 0.3336 +/- 0.0004, 0.0629 +/- 0.0001, and 99.6035 +/- 0.0004, respectively. We calculate an atomic mass of Ar of 39.9478 +/- 0.0002. Accurate Ar isotopic abundances are relevant in numerous applications, as the calibration of the mass spectrometer discrimination. (c) 2006 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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.

Petrenko, VV, Severinghaus JP, Brook EJ, Reeh N, Schaefer H.  2006.  Gas records from the West Greenland ice margin covering the Last Glacial Termination: a horizontal ice core. Quaternary Science Reviews. 25:865-875.   10.1016/j.quascirev.2005.09.005   AbstractWebsite

Certain sites along ice sheet margins provide an easily accessible and almost unlimited supply of ancient ice at the surface. Measurements of gases in trapped air from ice outcropping at Pakitsoq, West Greenland, demonstrate that ancient air is mostly well preserved. No alterations in delta O-18(atm) and delta N-15 of N-2 are apparent, and alterations in methane are found in only a few ice sections. Using measurements of these gases, we have unambiguously identified a stratigraphic section containing ice from the end of last glacial period as well as Bolling-Allerod, Younger Dryas and Preboreal intervals. Extensive sections of ice from the Holocene and most ages within the last glacial period are probably also present. Very accurate dating has been possible in the ice section containing the Younger Dryas-Preboreal abrupt climate transition signal. The ice at Pakitsoq is folded and non-uniformly thinned, with many cross-cutting bands of bubble-free ice and dust. The cross-cutting features are associated with anomalies in both the gas and the ice records. With careful sampling to avoid these, the ice at Pakitsoq is suitable for recovery of large-volume samples of the ancient atmosphere for analysis of trace constituents such as (CH4)-C-14. (c) 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Huber, C, Beyerle U, Leuenberger M, Schwander J, Kipfer R, Spahni R, Severinghaus JP, Weiler K.  2006.  Evidence for molecular size dependent gas fractionation in firn air derived from noble gases, oxygen, and nitrogen measurements. Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 243:61-73.   10.1016/j.epsl.2005.12.036   AbstractWebsite

We present elemental and isotopic measurements of noble gases (He, Ne, Ar, Kr, and Xe), oxygen and nitrogen of firn air from two sites. The first set of samples was taken in 1998 at the summit of the Devon Ice Cap in the eastern part of Devon Island. The second set was taken in 2001 at NGRIP location (North Greenland). He and Ne are heavily enriched relative to Ar with respect to the atmosphere in the air near the close-off depth at around 50-70 in. The enrichment increases with depth and reaches the maximum value in the deepest samples just above the zone of impermeable ice where no free air could be extracted anymore. Similarly, elemental ratios of O(2)/N(2), O(2)/Ar and Ar/N(2) are increasing with depth. In contrast but in line with expectations, isotopic ratios of (15)N/(14)N, (18)O/(16)O, and (36)Ar/(40)Ar show no significant enrichment near the close-off depth. The observed isotopic ratios in the firn air column can be explained within the uncertainty ranges by the well-known processes of gravitational enrichment and thermal diffusion. To explain the elemental ratios, however, an additional fractionation process during bubble inclusion has to be considered. We implemented this additional process into our firn air model. The fractionation factors were found by fitting model profiles to the data. We found a very similar close-off fractionation behavior for the different molecules at both sites. For smaller gas species (mainly He and Ne) the fractionation factors are linearly correlated to the molecule size, whereas for diameters greater than about 3.6 A the fractionation seems to be significantly smaller or even negligible. An explanation for this size dependent fractionation process could be gas diffusion through the ice lattice. At Devon Island the enrichment at the bottom of the firn air column is about four times higher compared to NGRIP. We explain this by lower firn diffusivity at Devon Island, most probably due to melt layers, resulting in significantly reduced back diffusion of the excess gas near the close-off depth. The results of this study considerably increase the understanding of the processes occurring during air bubble inclusion near the close-off depth in firn and can help to improve the interpretation of direct firn air measurements, as well as air bubble measurements in ice cores, which are used in numerous studies as paleo proxies. (c) 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.