An improved method for delta 15N measurements in ice cores
1School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK
2British Antarctic Survey, Natural Environment Research Council, Cambridge, UK
3Climate and Environmental Physics, Physics Institute, University of Berne, Berne, Switzerland
Abstract. The use of isotopic ratios of nitrogen gas (δ15N) trapped in ice cores as a paleothermometer to characterise abrupt climate changes is becoming a widespread technique. The versatility of the technique could be enhanced, for instance in quantifying small temperature changes during the last glacial period in Antarctic ice cores, by using high precision methods. In this paper, we outline a method for measuring δ15N to a precision of 0.006\permil (1σ, n=9) from replicate ice core samples. The high precision results from removing oxygen, carbon dioxide and water vapour from the air extracted from ice cores. The advantage of the technique is that it does not involve correction for isobaric interference due to CO+ ions. We also highlight the importance of oxygen removal from the sample, and how it influences δ15N measurements. The results show that a small amount of oxygen in the sample can be detrimental to achieving an optimum precision in δ15N measurements of atmospheric nitrogen trapped ice core samples.