Using Electrical Conductance Measurements to Develop the South Pole Ice Core Chronology
Ice cores record detailed histories of past climate variations. The South Pole ice core will allow investigation of atmospheric trace gases and fill an important gap in understanding the pattern of climate variability across Antarctica. An accurate timescale that assigns an age to the ice at each depth in the core is essential to interpretation of the ice-core records. This work will use electrical methods to identify volcanic eruptions throughout the past ~40,000 years in the core by detecting the enhanced electrical conductance in those layers due to volcanic impurities in the ice. These eruptions will be pattern-matched to other cores across Antarctica, synchronizing the timing of climate variations among cores and allowing the precise timescales developed for other Antarctic ice cores to be transferred to the South Pole ice core. The well-dated records of volcanic forcing will be combined with records of atmospheric gases, stable water-isotopes, and aerosols to better understand the large natural climate variations of the past 40,000 years.
The electrical conductance method and dielectric profiling measurements will be made along the length of each section of the South Pole ice core at the National Ice Core Lab. These measurements will help to establish a timescale for the core. Electrical measurements will provide a continuous record of volcanic events for the entire core including through the brittle ice (550-1250m representing ~10,000-20,000 year-old ice) where the core quality and thin annual layers may prevent continuous melt analysis and cause discrete measurements to miss volcanic events. The electrical measurements also produce a 2-D image of the electrical layering on a longitudinal cut surface of each core. These data will be used to identify any irregular or absent layering that would indicate a stratigraphic disturbance in the core. A robust chronology is essential to interpretation of the paleoclimate records from the South Pole ice core. The investigators will engage teachers through talks and webinars with the National Science Teachers Association and will share information with the public at events such as Polar Science Weekend at the Pacific Science Center. Results will be disseminated through publications and conference presentations and the data will be archived and publicly available.
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