Measuring an Ice-core Proxy for Relative Oxidant Abundances over Glacial-interglacial and Rapid Climate changes in a West Antarctic Ice Core
The Earth's atmosphere is a highly oxidizing medium. The abundance of oxidants such as ozone in the atmosphere strongly influences the concentrations of pollutants and greenhouse gases, with implications for human health and welfare. Because oxidants are not preserved in geological archives, knowledge of how oxidants have varied in the past under changing climate conditions is extremely limited. This award will measure a proxy for oxidant concentrations in a West Antarctic ice core over several major climate transitions over the past 50,000 years. These measurements will complement similar measurements from a Greenland ice core, which showed significant changes in atmospheric oxidants over major climate transitions covering this same time period. The addition of measurements from Antarctica will allow researchers to examine if the oxidant changes suggested by the Greenland ice core record are regional or global in scale. Knowledge of how oxidants vary naturally with climate will better inform predictions of the composition of the future atmosphere under a warming climate.
This award will support measurements of the isotopic composition of nitrate in a West Antarctic ice core as a proxy for oxidant concentrations in the past atmosphere. The nitrogen isotopes of nitrate provide information on the degree of preservation of nitrate in the ice core record, and thus aid in the interpretation of the observed variability in the observed nitrate concentrations and oxygen isotopes in ice core records. By providing information about the spatial scale of oxidant changes over abrupt climate change events during the last glacial period, this project may also improve our understanding of mechanisms driving these abrupt events. Insight from this project will prove valuable for forecasting the response of stratospheric circulation to climate change, which has large implications for climate feedbacks and tropospheric composition. In addition, the information gleaned from this project on the mechanisms and feedbacks during abrupt climate change events will help determine the likelihood of such rapid events occurring in the future, which would have dramatic impacts on humankind. This award will provide training for one graduate and one undergraduate student, and will support the development of a hands-on activity related to rapid climate change to be used at the annual Polar Science Weekend at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle, WA.
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