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High-resolution analysis of the ice core from Colle Gnifetti, Switzerland, allows yearly and sub-annual measurement of pollution for the period of highest lead production in the European Middle Ages, c. AD 1170–1220. Here, the authors use atmospheric circulation analysis and other geoarchaeological records to establish that Britain was the principal source of that lead pollution. The comparison of annual lead deposition at Colle Gnifetti displays a strong similarity to trends in lead production documented in the English historical accounts. This research provides unique new insight into the yearly political economy and environmental impact of the Angevin Empire of Kings Henry II, Richard the Lionheart and John.
The seventh-century AD switch from gold to silver currencies transformed the socio-economic landscape of North-west Europe. The source of silver, however, has proven elusive. Recent research, integrating ice-core data from the Colle Gnifetti drill site in the Swiss Alps, geoarchaeological records and numismatic and historical data, has provided new evidence for this transformation. Annual ice-core resolution data are combined with lead pollution analysis to demonstrate that significant new silver mining facilitated the change to silver coinage, and dates the introduction of such coinage to c. AD 660. Archaeological evidence and atmospheric modelling of lead pollution locates the probable source of the silver to mines at Melle, in France.
We offer the first sub-seasonal view of glacial age archives from the Siple Dome-A (SDMA) ice core using the ultra-high resolution capabilities of a newly developed laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS; 121 µm sampling resolution) system capable of conducting multi-element glaciochemical analysis. Our ultra-high resolution data demonstrates that: (1) the SDMA ice core record can be annually dated based on seasonality in chemical inputs at a depth not previously possible using previous glaciochemical sampling methods, (2) winter accumulation at the SD site was greater than summer accumulation during the three late glacial periods selected (~15.3, 17.3, 21.4 Ka ago) in this study and (3) resulting annual layer thicknesses results show greater variability than the current SD ice core depth/age model (Brook and others, 2005), possibly due to depositional effects such as wind scouring and/or decadal variability in snow accumulation that is not captured by the resolution of the current depth/age model.
Ice cores provide a robust reconstruction of past climate. However, development of timescales by annual-layer counting, essential to detailed climate reconstruction and interpretation, on ice cores collected at low-accumulation sites or in regions of compressed ice, is problematic due to closely spaced layers. Ice-core analysis by laser ablation–inductively coupled plasma–mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) provides sub-millimeter-scale sampling resolution (on the order of 100 μm in this study) and the low detection limits (ng L−1) necessary to measure the chemical constituents preserved in ice cores. We present a newly developed cryocell that can hold a 1 m long section of ice core, and an alternative strategy for calibration. Using ice-core samples from central Greenland, we demonstrate the repeatability of multiple ablation passes, highlight the improved sampling resolution, verify the calibration technique and identify annual layers in the chemical profile in a deep section of an ice core where annual layers have not previously been identified using chemistry. In addition, using sections of cores from the Swiss/Italian Alps we illustrate the relationship between Ca, Na and Fe and particle concentration and conductivity, and validate the LA-ICP-MS Ca profile through a direct comparison with continuous flow analysis results.
Using results stemming from the International Trans-Antarctic Scientific Expedition (ITASE) ice-core array plus data from ice cores from the South Pole and Siple Dome we investigate the use of sodium (Na+), non-sea-salt sulfate (nssSO42–) and methylsulfonate (MS–) as proxies for Antarctic sea-ice extent (SIE). Maximum and mean annual chemistry concentrations for these three species correlate significantly with maximum, mean and minimum annual SIE, offering more information and clarification than single ice-core and single species approaches. Significant correlations greater than 90% exist between Na+ and maximum SIE; nssSO42– with minimum and mean SIE; and MS– with mean SIE. Correlations with SIE within large geographic regions are in the same direction for all ice-core sites for Na+ and nssSO42– but not MS–. All ice cores display an SIE correlation with nssSO42– and MS–, but not all correlate with Na+. This multi-core multi-parameter study provides the initial step in determining which chemical species can be used reliably and in which regions as a building block for embedding other ice-core records. Once established, the resulting temporal and spatial matrix can be used to relate ice extents, atmospheric patterns, biological productivity and site conditions.
We report the discovery in the Greenland ice sheet of a discrete layer of free nanodiamonds (NDs) in very high abundances, implying most likely either an unprecedented influx of extraterrestrial (ET) material or a cosmic impact event that occurred after the last glacial episode. From that layer, we extracted n-diamonds and hexagonal diamonds (lonsdaleite), an accepted ET impact indicator, at abundances of up to about 5×106 times background levels in adjacent younger and older ice. The NDs in the concentrated layer are rounded, suggesting they most likely formed during a cosmic impact through some process similar to carbon-vapor deposition or high-explosive detonation. This morphology has not been reported previously in cosmic material, but has been observed in terrestrial impact material. This is the first highly enriched, discrete layer of NDs observed in glacial ice anywhere, and its presence indicates that ice caps are important archives of ET events of varying magnitudes. Using a preliminary ice chronology based on oxygen isotopes and dust stratigraphy, the ND-rich layer appears to be coeval with ND abundance peaks reported at numerous North American sites in a sedimentary layer, the Younger Dryas boundary layer (YDB), dating to 12.9 ± 0.1 ka. However, more investigation is needed to confirm this association.
We have determined the flux of calcium, chloride and nitrate to the McMurdo Dry Valleys region by analysing snow pits for their chemical composition and their snow accumulation using multiple records spanning up to 48 years. The fluxes demonstrate patterns related to elevation and proximity to the ocean. In general, there is a strong relationship between the nitrate flux and snow accumulation, indicating that precipitation rates may have a great influence over the nitrogen concentrations in the soils of the valleys. Aeolian dust transport plays an important role in the deposition of some elements (e.g. Ca2+) into the McMurdo Dry Valleys' soils. Because of the antiquity of some of the soil surfaces in the McMurdo Dry Valleys regions, the accumulated atmospheric flux of salts to the soils has important ecological consequences. Although precipitation may be an important mechanism of salt deposition to the McMurdo Dry Valley surfaces, it is poorly understood because of difficulties in measurement and high losses from sublimation.
Chemistry data from 16, 50–115m deep, sub-annually dated ice cores are used to investigate spatial and temporal concentration variability of sea-salt (ss) SO42– and excess (xs) SO42– over West Antarctica and the South Pole for the last 200 years. Low-elevation ice-core sites in western West Antarctica contain higher concentrations of SO42– as a result of cyclogenesis over the Ross Ice Shelf and proximity to the Ross Sea Polynya. Linear correlation analysis of 15 West Antarctic ice-core SO42– time series demonstrates that at several sites concentrations of ssSO42– are higher when sea-ice extent (SIE) is greater, and the inverse for xsSO42–. Concentrations of xsSO42– from the South Pole site (East Antarctica) are associated with SIE from the Weddell region, and West Antarctic xsSO42– concentrations are associated with SIE from the Bellingshausen–Amundsen–Ross region. The only notable rise of the last 200 years in xsSO42–, around 1940, is not related to SIE fluctuations and is most likely a result of increased xsSO42– production in the mid–low latitudes and/or an increase in transport efficiency from the mid–low latitudes to central West Antarctica. These high-resolution records show that the source types and source areas of ssSO42– and xsSO42– delivered to eastern and western West Antarctica and the South Pole differ from site to site but can best be resolved using records from spatial ice-core arrays such as the International Trans-Antarctic Scientific Expedition (ITASE).
Ice-core chemistry data from Victoria Lower Glacier, Antarctica, suggest, at least for the last 50 years, a direct influence of solar activity variations on the McMurdo Dry Valleys (MDV) climate system via controls on air-mass input from two competing environments: the East Antarctic ice sheet and the Ross Sea. During periods of increased solar activity, when total solar irradiance is relatively high, the MDV climate system appears to be dominated by air masses originating from the Ross Sea, leading to higher aerosol deposition. During reduced solar activity, the Antarctic interior seems to be the dominant air-mass source, leading to lower aerosol concentration in the ice-core record. We propose that the sensitivity of the MDV to variations in solar irradiance is caused by strong albedo differences between the ice-free MDV and the ice sheet.
We present highly resolved, annually dated, calibrated proxies for atmospheric circulation from several Antarctic ice cores (ITASE (International Trans-Antarctic Scientific Expedition), Siple Dome, Law Dome) that reveal decadal-scale associations with a South Pole ice-core 10Be proxy for solar variability over the last 600 years and annual-scale associations with solar variability since AD 1720. We show that increased (decreased) solar irradiance is associated with increased (decreased) zonal wind strength near the edge of the Antarctic polar vortex. The association is particularly strong in the Indian and Pacific Oceans and as such may contribute to understanding climate forcing that controls drought in Australia and other Southern Hemisphere climate events. We also include evidence suggestive of solar forcing of atmospheric circulation near the edge of the Arctic polar vortex based on ice-core records from Mount Logan, Yukon Territory, Canada, and both central and south Greenland as enticement for future investigations. Our identification of solar forcing of the polar atmosphere and its impact on lower latitudes offers a mechanism for better understanding modern climate variability and potentially the initiation of abrupt climate-change events that operate on decadal and faster scales.
Thirteen annually resolved accumulation-rate records covering the last ~200 years from the Pine Island–Thwaites and Ross drainage systems and the South Pole are used to examine climate variability over West Antarctica. Accumulation is controlled spatially by the topography of the ice sheet, and temporally by changes in moisture transport and cyclonic activity. A comparison of mean accumulation since 1970 at each site to the long-term mean indicates an increase in accumulation for sites located in the western sector of the Pine Island–Thwaites drainage system. Accumulation is negatively associated with the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) for sites near the ice divide, and periods of sustained negative SOI (1940–42, 1991–95) correspond to above-mean accumulation at most sites. Correlations of the accumulation-rate records with sea-level pressure (SLP) and the SOI suggest that accumulation near the ice divide and in the Ross drainage system may be associated with the mid-latitudes. The post-1970 increase in accumulation coupled with strong SLP–accumulation-rate correlations near the coast suggests recent intensification of cyclonic activity in the Pine Island– Thwaites drainage system.
McMurdo Dry Valleys (MDV; Ross Sea region, Antarctica) precipitation exhibits extreme seasonality in ion concentration, 3–5 orders of magnitude between summer and winter precipitation. To identify aerosol sources and investigate causes for the observed amplitude in concentration variability, four snow pits were sampled along a coast–Polar Plateau transect across the MDV. The elevation of the sites ranges from 50 to 2400 m and the distance from the coast from 8 to 93 km. Average chemistry gradients along the transect indicate that most species have either a predominant marine or terrestrial source in the MDV. Empirical orthogonal function analysis on the snow-chemistry time series shows that at least 57% of aerosol deposition occurs concurrently. A conceptual climate model, based on meteorological observations, is used to explain the strong seasonality in the MDV. Our results suggest that radiative forcing of the ice-free valleys creates a surface low-pressure cell during summer which promotes air-mass flow from the Ross Sea. The associated precipitating air mass is relatively warm, humid and contains a high concentration of aerosols. During winter, the MDV are dominated by air masses draining off the East Antarctic ice sheet, that are characterized by cold, dry and low concentrations of aerosols. The strong differences between these two air-mass sources create in the MDV a polar version of the monsoonal flow, with humid, warm summers and dry, cold winters.