High-precision C-14 measurements demonstrate production of in situ cosmogenic (CH4)-C-14 and rapid loss of in situ cosmogenic (CO)-C-14 in shallow Greenland firn

TitleHigh-precision C-14 measurements demonstrate production of in situ cosmogenic (CH4)-C-14 and rapid loss of in situ cosmogenic (CO)-C-14 in shallow Greenland firn
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsPetrenko VV, Severinghaus JP, Smith AM, Riedel K, Baggenstos D, Harth C, Orsi A, Hua Q, Franz P, Takeshita Y, Brailsford GW, Weiss RF, Buizert C, Dickson A, Schaefer H
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Date Published2013/03
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number0012-821X
Accession NumberWOS:000318130000018
Keywordsablation rates; antarctic; carbon monoxide; cosmogenic; firn; global methane budget; ice; ice core; ice-core; last glacial termination; law dome; methane; polar ice; radiocarbon; record; solar-activity

Measurements of radiocarbon (C-14) in carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and carbon monoxide (CO) from glacial ice are potentially useful for absolute dating of ice cores, studies of the past atmospheric CH4 budget and for reconstructing the past cosmic ray flux and solar activity. Interpretation of C-14 signals in ice is complicated by the fact that the two major C-14 components-trapped atmospheric and in situ cosmogenic-are present in a combined form, as well as by a very limited understanding of the in situ component. This study measured (CH4)-C-14 and (CO)-C-14 content in glacial firn with unprecedented precision to advance understanding of the in situ C-14 component. (CH4)-C-14 and (CO)-C-14 were melt-extracted on site at Summit, Greenland from three very large (similar to 1000 kg each) replicate samples of firn that spanned a depth range of 3.6-5.6 m. Non-cosmogenic C-14 contributions were carefully characterized through simulated extractions and a suite of supporting measurements. In situ cosmogenic (CO)-C-14 was quantified to better than +/- 0.6 molecules g(-1) ice, improving on the precision of the best prior ice (CO)-C-14 measurements by an order of magnitude. The (CO)-C-14 measurements indicate that most (>99%) of the in situ cosmogenic C-14 is rapidly lost from shallow Summit firn to the atmosphere. Despite this rapid C-14 loss, our measurements successfully quantified (CH4)-C-14 in the retained fraction of cosmogenic C-14 (to +/- 0.01 molecules g(-1) ice or better), and demonstrate for the first time that a significant amount of (CH4)-C-14 is produced by cosmic rays in natural ice. This conclusion increases the confidence in the results of an earlier study that used measurements of (CH4)-C-14 in glacial ice to show that wetlands were the likely main driver of the large and rapid atmospheric CH4 increase approximately 1 1.6 kyr ago.

Short TitleEarth Planet. Sci. Lett.
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