Publications

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Book Chapter
Atwater, T, Severinghaus J.  1989.  Tectonic maps of the northeast Pacific. The Eastern Pacific Ocean and Hawaii. ( Winterer EL, Hussong DM, Decker RW, Eds.).:15-20., Boulder, Colo.: Geological Society of America Abstract
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Journal Article
Severinghaus, JP, Grachev A, Battle M.  2001.  Thermal fractionation of air in polar firn by seasonal temperature gradients. Geochemistry Geophysics Geosystems. 2   10.1029/2000GC000146   AbstractWebsite

Air withdrawn from the top 5-15 m of the polar snowpack (fim) shows anomalous enrichment of heavy gases during summer, including inert gases. Following earlier work, we ascribe this to thermal diffusion, the tendency of a gas mixture to separate in a temperature gradient, with heavier molecules migrating toward colder regions. Summer warmth creates a temperature gradient in the top few meters of the firn due to the thermal inertia of the underlying firn and causes gas fractionation by thermal diffusion. Here we explore and quantify this process further in order to (1) correct for bias caused by thermal diffusion in firn air and ice core air isotope records, (2) help calibrate a new technique for measuring temperature change in ice core gas records based on thermal diffusion [Severinghaus et al., 1998], and (3) address whether air in polar snow convects during winter and, if so, whether it creates a rectification of seasonality that could bias the ice core record. We sampled air at 2-m-depth intervals from the top 15 m of the firn at two Antarctic sites, Siple Dome and South Pole, including a winter sampling at the pole. We analyzed (15)N/(14)N, (40)Ar/(36)Ar, (40)Ar/(38)Ar, (18)O/(16)O of O(2), O(2)/N(2), (84)Kr/(36)Ar, and (132)Xe/(36)Ar. The results show the expected pattern of fractionation and match a gas diffusion model based on first principles to within 30%. Although absolute values of thermal diffusion sensitivities cannot be determined from the data with precision, relative values of different gas pairs may. At Siple Dome, delta (40)Ar/4 is 66 +/- 2% as sensitive to thermal diffusion as delta (15)N, in agreement with laboratory calibration; delta (18)O/2 is 83 +/- 3%, and delta (84)Kr/48 is 33 +/- 3% as sensitive as delta (15)N. The corresponding figures for summer South Pole are 64 +/- 2%, 81 +/- 3%, and 34 +/- 3%. Accounting for atmospheric change, the figure for deltaO(2)/N(2)/4 is 90 +/- 3% at Siple Dome. Winter South Pole shows a strong depletion of heavy gases as expected. However, the data do not fit the model well in the deeper part of the profile and yield a systematic drift with depth in relative thermal diffusion sensitivities (except for Kr, constant at 34 +/- 4%), suggesting the action of some other process that is not currently understood. No evidence for wintertime convection or a rectifier effect is seen.

Severinghaus, JP, Sowers T, Brook EJ, Alley RB, Bender ML.  1998.  Timing of abrupt climate change at the end of the Younger Dryas interval from thermally fractionated gases in polar ice. Nature. 391:141-146.   10.1038/34346   AbstractWebsite

Rapid temperature change fractionates gas Isotopes in unconsolidated snow, producing a signal that is preserved in trapped air bubbles as the snow forms ice, The fractionation of nitrogen and argon isotopes at the end of the Younger Dryas cold interval, recorded in Greenland ice, demonstrates that warming at this time was abrupt. This warming coincides with the onset of a prominent rise in atmospheric methane concentration, indicating that the climate change was synchronous (within a few decades) over a region of at least hemispheric extent, and providing constraints on previously proposed mechanisms of climate change at this time, The depth of the nitrogen-isotope signal relative to the depth of the climate change recorded in the Ice matrix indicates that, during the Younger Dryas, the summit of Greenland was 15 +/- 3 degrees C colder than today.

Caillon, N, Severinghaus JP, Jouzel J, Barnola JM, Kang JC, Lipenkov VY.  2003.  Timing of atmospheric CO2 and Antarctic temperature changes across termination III. Science. 299:1728-1731.   10.1126/science.1078758   AbstractWebsite

The analysis of air bubbles from ice cores has yielded a precise record of atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations, but the timing of changes in these gases with respect to temperature is not accurately known because of uncertainty in the gas age-ice age difference. We have measured the isotopic composition of argon in air bubbles in the Vostok core during Termination III (similar to240,000 years before the present). This record most likely reflects the temperature and accumulation change, although the mechanism remains unclear. The sequence of events during Termination III suggests that the CO2 increase tagged Antarctic deglacial warming by 800 +/- 200 years and preceded the Northern Hemisphere deglaciation.

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.

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

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

Severinghaus, JP, Broecker WS, Peng TH, Bonani G.  1996.  Transect along 24 degrees N latitude of C-14 in dissolved inorganic carbon in the subtropical North Atlantic Ocean. Radiocarbon. 38:407-414. AbstractWebsite

The distribution of bomb-produced C-14 in the ocean provides a powerful constraint for circulation models of upper ocean mixing. We report C-14 measurements from an east-west section of the main thermocline at 24 degrees N latitude in the subtropical North Atlantic Ocean in summer 1992, and one profile from the Gulf of Mexico in 1993. Observed gradients reflect the transient invasion of bomb C-14 into the thermocline via mixing along isopycnals from the poleward outcrop, with progressively more sluggish mixing at greater depths. A slight deepening of the profile is observed over the 20-yr period since the GEOSECS survey at one location where the comparison is possible.