Collaborative Research: Stable Isotopes of Ice in the WAIS Divide Deep Ice Core
This award supports analyses of stable isotopes of water, dD, d18O and deuterium excess in the proposed West Antarctic Ice Sheet Divide (WAIS) deep ice core. The project will produce a continuous and high-resolution reconstruction of stable isotope ratios for the new core. dD and d18O values provide estimates of temperature change at the ice core site. Deuterium excess provides estimates of ocean surface conditions, such as sea surface temperature, at the moisture source areas. This new ice core is ideally situated to address questions ranging from ice sheet stability to abrupt climate change. WAIS Divide has high enough snowfall rates to record climate changes on annual to decadal time scales. It should also have ice old enough to capture the last interglacial period in detail. The West Antarctic ice sheet is the subject of great scrutiny as our modern climate warms and sea level rises. What are the prospects for added sea level rise from ice released by this ice sheet? Understanding how this ice sheet has responded to climate change in the past, which the data collected in this project will help to assess, is critical to answering this question. The high temporal resolution available in the WAIS Divide core will provide the best available basis for inter-comparison of millennial-scale climate changes between the poles, and thus a better understanding of the spatial expression and dynamics of rapid climate change events. Finally, the location of this core in the Pacific sector of West Antarctica makes it well situated for examining the influence of the tropical Pacific on Antarctica climate, on longer timescales than are available from the instrumental climate record. Analyses will include the measurement of sub-annually resolved isotope variations in the uppermost parts of the core, measurements at annual resolution throughout the last 10,000 years and during periods of rapid climate change prior to that, and measurements at 50-year resolution throughout the entire length of the core that is collected and processed during the period of this grant. We anticipate that this will be about half of the full core expected to be drilled. In terms of broader impacts, the PIs will share the advising of two graduate students, who will make this ice core the focus of their thesis projects. It will be done in an innovative multi-campus approach designed to foster a broader educational experience. As noted above, the data and interpretations generated by this proposal will address climate change questions not only of direct and immediate scientific interest, but also of direct and immediate policy interest.
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