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Dating of seasonal snow/firn accumulation layers using pollen analysis

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Reliable chronologies in ice cores and snow pits from many alpine glaciers in latitudes between 60° N and 60° S are often difficult to establish owing to problems with annual-layer counting. Problems arise from melting, wind erosion and the negligible amount of precipitation in some seasons, all of which tend to obscure the seasonal variations in 18O and chemical concentrations that are typically used to date ice cores. However, alpine glaciers contain many species of pollen grains that peak at particular times of the year. We used the peaks in Betulaceae, Pinus, Artemisia and a combination of Abies and Picea pollen species to determine the four seasonal layers of a snow pit on Belukha glacier in Russia's Altai Mountains. Comparing the pollen-dated profiles with wind and precipitation records allows us to determine where a seasonal layer is missing. Thus, the pollen-dating method described here may be a useful tool to measure the annual snow deposition on alpine glaciers, even when some seasonal layers are eroded by wind or missing due to negligible precipitation.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2005-06-01

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  • The Journal of Glaciology is published six times per year. It accepts submissions from any discipline related to the study of snow and ice. All articles are peer reviewed. The Journal is included in the ISI Science Citation Index.
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