Changes in environment over the last 800,000 years from chemical analysis of the EPICA Dome C ice core

The EPICA ice core from Dome C extends 3259 m in depth, and encompasses 800 ka of datable and sequential ice. Numerous chemical species have been measured along the length of the cores. Here we concentrate on interpreting the main low-resolution patterns of major ions. We extend the published record for non-sea-salt calcium, sea-salt sodium and non-sea-salt sulfate flux to 800 ka. The non-sea-salt calcium record confirms that terrestrial dust originating from South America closely mirrored Antarctic climate, both at orbital and millennial timescales. A major cause of the main trends is most likely climate in southern South America, which could be sensitive to subtle changes in atmospheric circulation. Sea-salt sodium also follows temperature, but with a threshold at low temperature. We re-examine the use of sodium as a sea ice proxy, concluding that it is probably reflecting extent, with high salt concentrations reflecting larger ice extents. With this interpretation, the sodium flux record indicates low ice extent operating as an amplifier in warm interglacials. Non-sea-salt sulfate flux is almost constant along the core, confirming the lack of change in marine productivity (for sulfur-producing organisms) in the areas of the Southern Ocean contributing to the flux at Dome C. For the first time we also present long records of reversible species such as nitrate and chloride, and show that the pattern of post-depositional losses described for shallower ice is maintained in older ice. It appears possible to use these concentrations to constrain snow accumulation rates in interglacial ice at this site, and the results suggest a possible correction to accumulation rates in one early interglacial. Taken together the chemistry records offer a number of constraints on the way the Earth system combined to give the major climate fluctuations of the late Quaternary period.


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Authors: Wolff, E.W., Barbante, C., Becagli, S., Bigler, M., Boutron, C.F., Castellano, E., de Angelis, M., Federer, U., Fischer, H., Fundel, F., Hansson, M., Hutterli, Manuel, Jonsell, U., Karlin, T., Kaufmann, P., Lambert, F., Littot, G.C., Mulvaney, Robert ORCIDORCID record for Robert Mulvaney, Rothlisberger, Regine, Ruth, U., Severi, M., Siggard-Andersen, M.L., Sime, Louise ORCIDORCID record for Louise Sime, Steffensen, J.P., Stocker, T.F., Traversi, R., Twarloh, B., Udisti, R., Wagenbach, D., Wegner, A.

On this site: Eric Wolff, Louise Sime, Robert Mulvaney
1 January, 2010
Quaternary Science Reviews / 29
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