Project Information
Paleoatmospheric Krypton and Xenon Abundances from Trapped Air in Polar Ice as Indicators of Past Mean Ocean Temperature
This award supports a project to produce the first record of Kr/N2 in the paleo-atmosphere as measured in air bubbles trapped in ice cores. These measurements may be indicative of past variations in mean ocean temperature. Knowing the mean ocean temperature in the past will give insight into past variations in deep ocean temperature, which remain poorly understood. Deep ocean temperature variations are important for understanding the mechanisms of climate change. Krypton is highly soluble in water, and its solubility varies with temperature, with higher solubilities at colder water temperatures. A colder ocean during the last glacial period would therefore hold more krypton than today's ocean. Because the total amount of krypton in the ocean-atmosphere system is constant, the increase in the krypton inventory in the glacial ocean should cause a resultant decrease in the atmospheric inventory of krypton. The primary goal of this work is to develop the use of Kr/N2 as an indicator of paleo-oceanic mean temperature. This will involve improving the analytical technique for the Kr/N2 measurement itself, and measuring the Kr/N2 in air bubbles in ice from the last glacial maximum (LGM) and the late Holocene in the Vostok and GISP2 ice cores. This provides an estimate of LGM mean ocean temperature change, and allows for a comparison between previous estimates of deep ocean temperature during the LGM. The Vostok ice core is ideal for this purpose because of the absence of melt layers, which compromise the krypton and xenon signal. Another goal is to improve precision on the Xe/N2 measurement, which could serve as a second, independent proxy of ocean temperature change. A mean ocean temperature time series during this transition may help to explain these observations. Additionally, the proposed work will measure the Kr/N2 from marine isotope stage (MIS) 3 in the GISP2 ice core. Knowing the past ocean temperature during MIS 3 will help to constrain sea level estimates during this time period. The broader impacts of the proposed work: are that it will provide the first estimate of the extent and timing of mean ocean temperature change in the past. This will help to constrain previously proposed mechanisms of climate change involving large changes in deep ocean temperature. This project will also support the education of a graduate student. The PI gives interviews and talks to the media and public about climate change, and the work will enhance these outreach activities. Finally, the work will occur during the International Polar Year (IPY), and will underscore the unique importance of the polar regions for understanding the global atmosphere and ocean system.
Person Role
Severinghaus, Jeffrey P. Investigator
Antarctic Glaciology Award # 0538630
AMD - DIF Record(s)
Data Management Plan
None in the Database
Product Level:
Not provided
Platforms and Instruments

This project has been viewed 4 times since May 2019 (based on unique date-IP combinations)