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Climate of the Past An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 31 Jul 2019

Submitted as: research article | 31 Jul 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Climate of the Past (CP).

Estimation of gas record alteration in very low accumulation ice cores

Kévin Fourteau1, Patricia Martinerie1, Xavier Faïn1, Alexey A. Ekaykin2, Jérôme Chappellaz1, and Vladimir Lipenkov2 Kévin Fourteau et al.
  • 1Univ. Grenoble Alpes, CNRS, IRD, Grenoble INP, IGE, F-38000 Grenoble, France
  • 2Climate and Environmental Research Laboratory, Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute, St. Petersburg, 199397, Russia

Abstract. We measured the methane mixing ratios of enclosed air in five ice core sections drilled on the East Antarctic plateau. Our work aims to study two effects that affect the recorded gas concentrations in ice cores: layered gas trapping artifacts and firn smoothing. Layered gas trapping artifacts are due to the heterogeneous nature of polar firn, where some strata might close early and trap abnormally old gases that appear as spurious values during measurements. The smoothing is due to the combined effects of diffusive mixing in the firn and the progressive closure of bubbles at the bottom of the firn. Consequently, the gases trapped in a given ice layer span a distribution of ages. Concentration measurements thus only measure the average value in the ice layer, which removes the fast variability from the record. We focus on the study of East Antarctic plateau ice cores, as these low accumulation ice cores are particularly affected by both layering and smoothing. Our results suggest that the presence of layering artifacts in deep ice cores is linked with the chemical content of the ice. We use high-resolution methane data to parametrize a simple model reproducing the layered gas trapping artifacts for different accumulation conditions typical of the East Antarctic plateau. We also use the high-resolution methane measurements to estimate the gas age distributions of the enclosed air in the five newly measured ice core sections. It appears that for accumulations below 2 cm ie yr−1(ice equivalent) the gas records experience nearly the same degree of smoothing. We therefore propose to use a single gas age distribution to represent the firn smoothing observed in the glacial ice cores of the East Antarctic plateau. Finally, we used the layered gas trapping model and the estimation of glacial firn smoothing to estimate their potential impacts on a million-and-a-half years old ice core from the East Antarctic plateau. Our results indicate that layering artifacts are no longer individually resolved in the case of very thinned ice near the bedrock. They nonetheless contribute to slight biases of the measured signal (less than 10 ppbv and 0.5 ppmv in the case of methane and carbon dioxide). However, these biases are small compared to the dampening experienced by the record due to firn smoothing.

Kévin Fourteau et al.
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Kévin Fourteau et al.
Kévin Fourteau et al.
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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
We quantify how the greenhouse gas records of East Antarctica ice cores (which are the oldest ice cores) might differ from the actual atmosphere history. It is required to properly interpret ice core data. For this, we measured the methane of five new East Antarctic ice core sections using a high-resolution technique. We found that in these very-old ice cores, one can retrieve concentration variations occurring in a few centuries only, allowing climatologists to study climate's fast dynamics.
We quantify how the greenhouse gas records of East Antarctica ice cores (which are the oldest...