Nitrogen and oxygen gas isotopes in the Siple Dome and Byrd ice cores
Siple Dome Ice Core
The award supports the development of high-resolution nitrogen and oxygen isotope records on trapped gases in the Byrd and Siple Dome ice cores, and the Holocene part of the GISP2 ice core. The primary scientific goals of this work are to understand the enigmatic d15N anomalies seen thus far in the Siple Dome record at 15.3 ka and 35 ka, and to find other events that may occur in both cores. At these events, d15N of trapped air approaches zero, implying little or no gravitational fractionation of gases in the firn layer at the time of formation of the ice. These events may represent times of low accumulation rate and arid meteorological conditions, and thus may contain valuable information about the climatic history of West Antarctica. Alternatively, they may stem from crevassing and thus may reveal ice-dynamical processes. Finding the events in the Byrd core, which is located 500 km from Siple Dome, would place powerful constraints on their origin and significance. A second major goal is to explore the puzzling absence of the abrupt warming event at 22 ka (seen at Siple Dome) in the nearby Byrd 18O/16O record in the ice (d18Oice), and search for a possible correlative signal in Byrd d15N. A third goal takes advantage of the fact that precise measurements of the oxygen isotopic composition of atmospheric O2 (d18Oatm) are obtained as a byproduct of the d15N measurement. The proposed gas-isotopic measurements will underpin an integrated suite of West Antarctic climate and atmospheric gas records, which will ultimately include the WAIS Divide core. These records will help separate regional from global climate signals, and may place constraints on the cause of abrupt climate change. Education of two graduate students, and training of two staff members in the laboratory, contribute to the nation's human resource base. Education and outreach will be an important component of the project.
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