Project Information
Targeted Basic Research to Enable Antarctic Science Applications of Cosmogenic-Nuclide Geochemistry
Short Title:
Cosmogenic-nuclide basic research
Start Date:
End Date:
This project will conduct basic research into geological dating techniques that are useful for determining the age of glacial deposits in polar regions, Antarctica in particular. These techniques are necessary for determining how large the polar ice sheets were in the geologic past, including during past periods of warm climate that likely resemble present and near-future conditions. Thus, they represent an important technical capability needed for estimating the response of polar ice sheets to climate warming. Because changes in the size of polar ice sheets are the largest potential contribution to future global sea-level change, this capability is also relevant to understanding likely sea-level impacts of future climate change. The research in this project comprises several observational and experimental approaches to improving the speed, efficiency, cost, and accuracy of these techniques, as well as a scientific outreach program aimed at making the resulting capabilities more broadly available to other researchers. The project supports a postdoctoral scholar and contributes to human resources development in polar and climate science. The project focuses on several areas of cosmogenic-nuclide geochemistry, which is a geochemical dating method that relies on the production and decay of cosmic-ray-produced radionuclides in surface rocks. Measurements of these nuclides can be used to quantify the duration of surface exposure and ice cover at locations in Antarctica that are covered and uncovered by changes in the size of the Antarctic ice sheets, thus providing a means of reconstructing past ice-sheet change. The first proposed set of experiments are aimed at implementing a ''virtual mineral separation'' approach to cosmogenic noble gas analysis that may allow measurement of nuclide concentrations in certain minerals without physically separating the minerals from the host rock. If feasible, this would realize significant speed and cost improvements for this type of analysis. A second set of experiments will focus on means of identifying and quantifying non-cosmogenic background inventories of some relevant nuclides, which is intended to improve the measurement sensitivity and precision for cosmic-ray-produced inventories of these nuclides. A third focus area aims to improve capabilities to measure multiple cosmic-ray-produced nuclides in the same sample, which has the potential to improve the accuracy of dating methods based on these nuclides and to expand the situations in which these methods can be applied. If successful, these experiments are likely to improve a number of applications of cosmogenic-nuclide geochemistry relevant to Antarctic research, including subglacial bedrock exposure dating, dating of multimillion-year-old glacial deposits, and surface-process studies useful in understanding landform evolution and ecosystem dynamics. This award reflects NSF''s statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation''s intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.
Person Role
Balco, Gregory Investigator and contact
Marie, Bergelin Researcher
Antarctic Glaciology Award # 2139497
AMD - DIF Record(s)
Data Management Plan
Product Level:
1 (processed data)
Platforms and Instruments

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