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The British Antarctic Survey's (BAS) Rapid Access Isotope Drill (RAID), designed for rapid drilling to survey prospective ice core sites, has been deployed at multiple Antarctic locations over 6 years. This drilling method creates ice chippings that can be discretely sampled and analysed for their chemical and water isotopic composition. Ice sampling methods have evolved since the first uses of the BAS RAID, enabling a more quantifiable sample resolution. Here, we show that water isotope records obtained from RAID ice are comparable to those of equivalent depth resolution from proximal ice cores. Records of chemical impurities also show good agreement with nearby cores. Our findings suggest that the RAID is suitable for both chemical and isotopic reconnaissance of drilling sites. Residual contamination of certain ions is discussed, with proposed design changes to avoid this issue with future use.
This paper presents a physics-based macroscale model for the densification of dry snow which provides for a smooth transition between densification by grain-boundary sliding (stage 1) and densification by power-law creep (stage 2). The model uses established values of the stage 1 and 2 densification rates away from the transition zone and two transition parameters with a simple physical basis: the transition density and the half-width of the transition zone. It has been calibrated using density profiles from the SUMup database and physically based expressions for the transition parameters have been derived. The transition model produces better predictions of the depth of the nominal bubble close-off horizon than the Herron and Langway model, both in its classical form and in a recent version with re-optimised densification rates.
Dissolved and particulate sodium, magnesium and calcium are analyzed in ice cores to determine past changes in sea ice extent, terrestrial dust variability and atmospheric aerosol transport efficiency. They are also used to date ice cores if annual layers are visible. Multiple methods have been developed to analyze these important compounds in ice cores. Continuous flow analysis (CFA) is implemented with instruments that sample the meltstream continuously. In this study, CFA with ICP-MS (inductively coupled-plasma mass spectrometry) and fast ion chromatography (FIC) methods are compared for analysis of sodium and magnesium. ICP-MS, FIC and fluorescence methods are compared for analysis of calcium. Respective analysis of a 10 m section of the Antarctic WACSWAIN Skytrain Ice Rise ice core shows that all of the methods result in similar levels of the compounds. The ICP-MS method is the most suitable for analysis of the Skytrain ice core due to its superior precision (relative standard deviation: 1.6% for Na, 1.3% for Mg and 1.2% for Ca) and sampling frequency compared to the FIC method. The fluorescence detection method may be preferred for calcium analysis due to its higher depth resolution (1.4 cm) relative to the ICP-MS and FIC methods (~4 cm).
To understand the long-term climate and glaciological evolution of the ice sheet in the region bordering the Weddell Sea, the British Antarctic Survey has undertaken a series of successful ice core projects drilling to bedrock on Berkner Island, James Ross Island and the Fletcher Promontory. A new project, WACSWAIN, seeks to increase this knowledge by further drilling to bedrock on two further ice rises in this region. In a single-season project, an ice core was recovered to bedrock at 651 m on Skytrain Ice Rise using an ice core drill in a fluid-filled borehole. In a second season, a rapid access drill was used to recover ice chips to 323 m on Sherman Island in a dry borehole, though failing to reach the bedrock which was at an estimated depth of 428 m.
Surface mass balance (SMB) is the net input of mass on a glacier's upper surface, composed of snow deposition, melt and erosion processes, and is a major contributor to the overall mass balance. Pine Island Glacier (PIG) in West Antarctica has been dynamically imbalanced since the early 1990s, indicating that discharge of solid ice into the oceans exceeds snow deposition. However, observations of the SMB pattern on the fast flowing regions are scarce, and are potentially affected by the firn's strain history. Here, we present new observations from radar-derived stratigraphy and a relatively dense network of firn cores, collected along a ~900 km traverse of PIG. Between 1986 and 2014, the SMB along the traverse was 0.505 m w.e. a−1 on average with a gradient of higher snow deposition in the South-West compared with the North-East of the catchment. We show that along ~80% of the traverse the strain history amounts to a misestimation of SMB below the nominal uncertainty, but can exceed it by a factor 5 in places, making it a significant correction to the SMB estimate locally. We find that the strain correction changes the basin-wide SMB by ~0.7 Gt a−1 and thus forms a negligible (1%) correction to the glacier's total SMB.
The British Antarctic Survey Rapid Access Isotope Drill is an innovative new class of electromechanical ice drill, which has recently been used to drill the deepest dry hole drilled by an electromechanical auger drill. The record-breaking depth of 461.58 m was drilled in just over 104 hours at Little Dome C. The drill collects ice chippings, for water stable isotope analysis, rather than an ice core. By not collecting a core the winch can be geared for speed rather than core breaking and is lightweight. Furthermore, emptying of the chippings is performed by simply reversing the drill motor on the surface reducing the overall drilling time significantly. The borehole is then available for instrumentation. We describe the drill in its current state including modifications carried out since it was last deployed. Test seasons and the lessons learned from each are outlined. Finally, future developments for this class of drill are discussed.
West Antarctic climate and surface mass balance (SMB) records are sparse. To fill this gap, regional atmospheric climate modelling is useful, providing that such models are employed at sufficiently high horizontal resolution and coupled with a snow model. Here we present the results of a high-resolution (5.5 km) regional atmospheric climate model (RACMO2) simulation of coastal West Antarctica for the period 1979–2015. We evaluate the results with available in situ weather observations, remote-sensing estimates of surface melt, and SMB estimates derived from radar and firn cores. Moreover, results are compared with those from a lower-resolution version, to assess the added value of the resolution. The high-resolution model resolves small-scale climate variability invoked by topography, such as the relatively warm conditions over ice-shelf grounding zones, and local wind speed accelerations. Surface melt and SMB are well reproduced by RACMO2. This dataset will prove useful for picking ice core locations, converting elevation changes to mass changes, for driving ocean, ice-sheet and coupled models, and for attributing changes in the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and shelves to changes in atmospheric forcing.
Following on from the successful project to recover an ice core to bedrock on Berkner Island, similar drilling equipment and logistics were used on two further projects to recover ice cores to bedrock in the Antarctic Peninsula. At James Ross Island, a ship- and helicopter-supported project drilled to bedrock at 363 m depth in a single season, while a Twin Otter-supported project drilled to bedrock at 654m depth, again in a single season, from Fletcher Promontory. In both new projects, drilling was from the surface, with the infrastructure enclosed in a tent, using an uncased, partially fluid-filled, borehole.
The British Antarctic Survey, in collaboration with Laboratoire de Glaciologie et Géophysique de l’Environnement, has in recent years successfully drilled to bedrock on three remote sites around the Antarctic Peninsula. Based on the experience from the multi-season project at Berkner Island (948m depth, 2002–05) we optimized the drill set-up to better suit two subsequent single-season projects at James Ross Island (363m depth, 2008) and Fletcher Promontory (654m depth, 2012). The adaptations, as well as the reasons for them, are discussed in detail and include a drill tent set-up without a trench; drilling without a borehole casing with a relatively low fluid column height; and using a shorter drill. These optimizations were aimed at reducing cargo loads and installation time while maintaining good core quality, productivity and a safe working environment. In addition, we introduce a number of innovations, ranging from a new lightweight cable tensioning device and drill-head design to core storage and protection trays. To minimize the environmental impact, all the drill fluid was successfully recovered at both sites and we describe and evaluate this operation.
A new sub-seasonal chemical record is presented from the North Greenland Icecore Project (NorthGRIP) ice core during the onset of one of the longest and strongest interstadials of the last glacial period, Dansgaard–Oeschger event 8 (approximately 38 000 years ago). This is the first time that a record of such resolution has been achieved over several metres of deep glacial ice and provides a unique opportunity for using additional parameters to carry out accurate dating using annual-layer counting. The very high-resolution chemical data were used to assess the phasing of various ions and determine changes in the seasonal strength of chemical deposition and the shape of the seasonal cycle. The study shows that a change in seasonality accompanied the dramatic warming transition from stadial to interstadial conditions in Greenland.
Ice-core records of methanesulphonic acid (MSA) provide a potentially powerful tool for producing proxy records of sea ice, a critical but poorly understood component of the Earth’s climate system. However, MSA is able to diffuse through solid ice, and here we examine the effect of two different methods of frozen storage on the preservation of MSA in archived ice-core samples. Re-analysis of archived ice sticks confirms that MSA diffuses out of ice cores archived in this manner. Despite MSA losses of up to 39% after 7 years storage, the ice sticks studied here preserve much of the variability of the original MSA record, suggesting that useful proxy records can be obtained from archived ice sticks. Furthermore, re-analysis of ice-core samples that had been refrozen into discrete bottled samples for storage demonstrates that it is possible to archive ice samples in a way that prevents MSA loss. In this case, accurate records of MSA variability and concentration were preserved even over storage periods of 15 years. This has important implications for the storage of ice cores and subsequent determination of MSA, and demonstrates that ice storage history needs to be considered when interpreting MSA records.
We describe a project to retrieve a 948m deep ice core from Berkner Island, Antarctica. Using relatively lightweight logistics and a small team, the drilling operation over three austral summer seasons used electromechanical drilling technology, described in detail, from a covered shallow pit and a fluid-filled borehole. A basal temperature well below pressure-melting point meant that no drilling problems were encountered when approaching the bed and the borehole penetrated through to the base of the ice sheet, and sediment was retrieved from beneath the ice.
As a result of intensive field activities carried out by several nations over the past 15 years, a set of accumulation measurements for western Dronning Maud Land, Antarctica, was collected, based on firn-core drilling and snow-pit sampling. This new information was supplemented by earlier data taken from the literature, resulting in 111 accumulation values. Using Geographical Information Systems software, a first region-wide mean annual snow-accumulation field was derived. In order to define suitable interpolation criteria, the accumulation records were analyzed with respect to their spatial autocorrelation and statistical properties. The resulting accumulation pattern resembles well- known characteristics such as a relatively wet coastal area with a sharp transition to the dry interior, but also reveals complex topographic effects. Furthermore, this work identifies new high-return shallowdrilling sites by uncovering areas of insufficient sampling density.
From its original formulation in 1990 the International Trans-Antarctic Scientific Expedition (ITASE) has had as its primary aim the collection and interpretation of a continent-wide array of environmental parameters assembled through the coordinated efforts of scientists from several nations. ITASE offers the ground-based opportunities of traditional-style traverse travel coupled with the modern technology of GPS, crevasse detecting radar, satellite communications and multidisciplinary research. By operating predominantly in the mode of an oversnow traverse, ITASE offers scientists the opportunity to experience the dynamic range of the Antarctic environment. ITASE also offers an important interactive venue for research similar to that afforded by oceanographic research vessels and large polar field camps, without the cost of the former or the lack of mobility of the latter. More importantly, the combination of disciplines represented by ITASE provides a unique, multidimensional (space and time) view of the ice sheet and its history. ITASE has now collected >20 000km of snow radar, recovered more than 240 firn/ice cores (total length 7000 m), remotely penetrated to ~4000m into the ice sheet, and sampled the atmosphere to heights of >20 km.
Replicate ice cores have been drilled about 10 m apart for the top 790 m of the ice sheet at Dome C, Antarctica. This provides an opportunity to examine inter-core variation of the signal for identical events, based on dielectric profile (DEP) comparisons. Comparison of the signal from the same core (a section 48 m long), measured 1 year apart, showed good reproducibility, with peak heights varying by around 10% between the two measurements. For the two replicate cores, identical peaks were matched and showed variability between cores of typically a factor 1.5. This can be explained based on the likelihood of significant time periods of missing accumulation in any single core at sites with such low snow accumulation rate. To synchronize core depths by matching peaks, it is essential to use the pattern of peaks, rather than just widely spaced individual strong peaks. To derive a quantitative volcanic index from these low-accumulation rate sites, it will be necessary to combine or average the results from several closely spaced parallel cores.
We investigate and quantify the variability of snow accumulation rate around a medium-depth firn core (160 m) drilled in east Dronning Maud Land, Antarctica (75°00′ S, 15°00’ E; 3470 m h.a.e. (ellipsoidal height)). We present accumulation data from five snow pits and five shallow (20 m) firn cores distributed within a 3.5–7 km distance, retrieved during the 2000/01 Nordic EPICA (European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica) traverse. Snow accumulation rates estimated for shorter periods show higher spatial variance than for longer periods. Accumulation variability as recorded from the firn cores and snow pits cannot explain all the variation in the ion and isotope time series; other depositional and post-depositional processes need to be accounted for. Through simple statistical analysis we show that there are differences in sensitivity to these processes between the analyzed species. Oxygen isotopes and sulphate are more conservative in their post-depositional behaviour than the more volatile acids, such as nitrate and to some degree chloride and methanesulphonic acid. We discuss the possible causes for the accumulation variability and the implications for the interpretation of ice-core records.
Svalbard ice cores have not yet been fully exploited for studies of climate and environmental conditions. In one recently drilled ice core from Lomonosovfonna, we have studied the methanesulfonic acid (MSA) records in relation to temperature and sea ice. Under the present climatic conditions, MSA appears to be negatively correlated with the sea-ice conditions in the Barents Sea, and positively correlated with the instrumental temperature record from Svalbard. However, prior to about 1920 the MSA concentrations were about twice as high, despite the more extensive sea-ice coverage. After exploring different possibilities, we suggest that MSA concentrations were higher in the 19th century than in the 20th century due to increased primary production, in response to increased vertical stability of the sea surface layers, caused by increased meltwater production from the more extensive sea-ice cover. Thus, the MSA record from Lomonosovfonna probably both is a measure of the regional sea-ice variability on the multi-decadal scale and reflects locally favorable conditions for marine biogenic dimethyl sulfide (DMS) production on the sub-decadal scale.
It has recently been shown that much sea-salt aerosol around the coast of Antarctica is generated not from open water, but from the surface of newly formed sea ice. Previous interpretations of ice-core records have disregarded the sea-ice surface as a source of sea salt. The majority of sea-salt aerosol at Halley research station originates from frost flowers rather than open water, and the seasonal cycle of sea salt in aerosol at Halley appears to be controlled by ice production in the Weddell Sea, as well as variations in wind speed. Frost flowers are also an important source of aerosol at Siple Dome, suggesting that variations in sea-salt concentrations in the core, and other cores drilled in similar locations, may be reflecting changes in sea-ice production rather than changes in transportation patterns. For Greenland cores, and those from low-accumulation inland sites in Antarctica, it is not simple to calculate the proportion of sea salt originating from frost flowers rather than open water. However, modelling studies suggest that a sea-ice surface source contributed much of the flux of sea salt to these sites in glacial periods, suggesting that interpretations of ice-core records from these locations should also be revisited.
Over the period 1972–98 the height of the snow surface at eight Antarctic sites in Palmer Land and on Alexander Island has been measured with respect to fixed points on local nunataks. From these data an empirical relation between height changes over a given period and three key variables has been derived. These variables are (i) the local mean annual surface air temperature, (ii) a regional estimate of energy available for melt over the period (derived from the nearby Rothera air-temperature record) and (iii) a regional estimate of accumulation over the period (derived from the nearby Gomez Nunatak ice-core accumulation record). Using this relation, the contribution of the Antarctic Peninsula to sea-level rise for warming from climatic conditions (averaged over the last 30 years) is estimated to be −0.006 ± 0.002 mm a−1 K−1. If recent warm conditions persist, however, and meltwater can run off to the sea, the contribution to sea-level rise from ablation is calculated to be 0.07 ± 0.02 mm a−1 K−1.