High resolution measurements of carbon monoxide along a late Holocene Greenland ice core: Evidence for in situ production

X. Faïn*, J. Chappellaz, R. H. Rhodes, C. Stowasser, T. Blunier, J. R. McConnell, E. J. Brook, S. Preunkert, M. Legrand, T. Debois, D. Romanini

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)
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We present high-resolution measurements of carbon monoxide (CO) concentrations from a shallow ice core of the North Greenland Eemian Ice Drilling project (NEEM-2011-S1). An optical-feedback cavity-enhanced absorption spectrometer (OF-CEAS) coupled to a continuous melter system performed continuous, online analysis during a four-week measurement campaign. This analytical setup generated stable measurements of CO concentrations with an external precision of 7.8 ppbv (1σ), based on repeated analyses of equivalent ice core sections. However, this first application of this measurement technique suffered from a poorly constrained procedural blank of 48 ± 25 ppbv and poor accuracy because an absolute calibration was not possible. The NEEM-2011-S1 CO record spans 1800 yr and the long-term trends within the most recent section of this record (i.e., post 1700 AD) resemble the existing discrete CO measurements from the Eurocore ice core. However, the CO concentration is highly variable (75-1327 ppbv range) throughout the ice core with high frequency (annual scale), high amplitude spikes characterizing the record. These CO signals are too abrupt and rapid to reflect atmospheric variability and their prevalence largely prevents interpretation of the record in terms of atmospheric CO variation. The abrupt CO spikes are likely the result of in situ production occurring within the ice itself, although the unlikely possibility of CO production driven by non-photolytic, fast kinetic processes within the continuous melter system cannot be excluded. We observe that 68% of the CO spikes are observed in ice layers enriched with pyrogenic aerosols. Such aerosols, originating from boreal biomass burning emissions, contain organic compounds, which may be oxidized or photodissociated to produce CO within the ice. However, the NEEM-2011-S1 record displays an increase of ~ 0.05 ppbv yr-1 in baseline CO level prior to 1700 AD (129 m depth) and the concentration remains elevated, even for ice layers depleted in dissolved organic carbon (DOC). Thus, the processes driving the likely in situ production of CO within the NEEM ice may involve multiple, complex chemical pathways not all related to past fire history and require further investigation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)987-1000
Number of pages14
JournalClimate of the Past
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 22 May 2014
Externally publishedYes


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