Developing a glacial-interglacial record of delta-13C of atmospheric CO2
This award is funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-5).
This award supports a project to develop a robust analytical technique for measuring the stable isotopes of CO2 in air trapped in polar ice, and to reconstruct the ä13C of CO2 over the last glacial to interglacial transition (20,000 to 10,000 years BP) and through the Holocene. The bulk of these measurements will be made on newly cored ice from the WAIS Divide Ice Core. A robust record ä13C of CO2 will be a valuable addition to the rich data produced from this project. The intellectual merit of the proposed work relates to the fact that explaining glacial-interglacial changes in atmospheric CO2 remains a major challenge for paleoclimatology. The lack of a coherent, widely accepted explanation underscores uncertainties in the basic mechanisms that control the carbon cycle, and that lack of understanding limits our ability to confidently predict how the carbon cycle will change in the future, in the face of a potentially major perturbation of both global temperature and the CO2 content of the atmosphere. A widely accepted record of this parameter could transform our understanding of how the carbon cycle and climate change are linked. The broader impacts of the work include training of graduate student at OSU who will conduct much of the lab work and will also participate in fieldwork at the WAIS Divide Core site. The student will also participate in a number of organized outreach efforts and will develop his own outreach effort, through weblogs and other communication of his research. The PIs will communicate the results from this project to a variety of audiences through academic courses and public talks. The proposed work addresses a major topic in biogeochemistry, the origin of glacial-interglacial CO2 cycles. The results are relevant to understanding changes in the carbon cycle due to human activities because the lack of clear understanding of past variations contributes to public uncertainty about the importance of modern climate change. The proposed funding will also contribute to analytical infrastructure at OSU and develop an analytical capability for an ice core measurement currently not available in the United States.
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