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Instruments and Methods: A novel method for obtaining very large ancient air samples from ablating glacial ice for analyses of methane radiocarbon

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We present techniques for obtaining large (∼100 L STP) samples of ancient air for analysis of 14C of methane (14CH4) and other trace constituents. Paleoatmospheric 14CH4 measurements should constrain the fossil fraction of past methane budgets, as well as provide a definitive test of methane clathrate involvement in large and rapid methane concentration ([CH4]) increases that accompanied rapid warming events during the last deglaciation. Air dating to the Younger Dryas–Preboreal and Oldest Dryas–Bølling abrupt climatic transitions was obtained by melt extraction from old glacial ice outcropping at an ablation margin in West Greenland. The outcropping ice and occluded air were dated using a combination of 15N of N2, 18O of O2, 18Oice and [CH4] measurements. The [CH4] blank of the melt extractions was <4 ppb. Measurements of 18O and 15N indicated no significant gas isotopic fractionation from handling. Measured Ar/N2, CFC-11 and CFC-12 in the samples indicated no significant contamination from ambient air. Ar/N2, Kr/Ar and Xe/Ar ratios in the samples were used to quantify effects of gas dissolution during the melt extractions and correct the sample [CH4]. Corrected [CH4] is elevated over expected values by up to 132 ppb for most samples, suggesting some in situ CH4 production in ice at this site.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2008-03-01

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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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