One common assumption in interpreting ice-core CO2 records is that diffusion in the ice does not affect the concentration profile. However, this assumption remains untested because the extremely small CO2 diffusion coefficient in ice has not been accurately determined in the laboratory. In this study we take advantage of high levels of CO2 associated with refrozen layers in an ice core from Siple Dome, Antarctica, to study CO2 diffusion rates. We use noble gases (Xe/Ar and Kr/Ar), electrical conductivity and Ca2+ ion concentrations to show that substantial CO2 diffusion may occur in ice on timescales of thousands of years. We estimate the permeation coefficient for CO2 in ice is ∼4 × 10−21 mol m−1 s−1: Pa−1 at –23°C in the top 287 m (corresponding to 2.74 kyr). Smoothing of the CO2 record by diffusion at this depth/age is one or two orders of magnitude smaller than the smoothing in the firn. However, simulations for depths of ∼930–950 m (∼60–70 kyr) indicate that smoothing of the CO2 record by diffusion in deep ice is comparable to smoothing in the firn. Other types of diffusion (e.g. via liquid in ice grain boundaries or veins) may also be important but their influence has not been quantified.
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.