Carbonaceous particles reveal that Late Holocene dust causes the dark region in the western ablation zone of the Greenland ice sheet

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A dark region in the western ablation zone of the Greenland ice sheet is caused by outcropping ice layers that contain more dust than the surrounding brighter ice. These higher amounts of dust were deposited in the accumulation zone of the ice sheet and travelled with the ice to the ablation zone. To deduce the period and the causes of this higher dust deposition, carbonaceous particles in ice samples from the dark region and from brighter reference ice were analysed and used for dating. Samples including ice from directly below the surface contain high amounts of modern organic carbon, probably from microorganisms on the ice surface. Deeper samples reveal low amounts of carbonaceous particles, which are originally deposited in the accumulation zone. The amount of outcropping carbonaceous particles in the dark region seems significantly higher than in the reference ice. One of the samples that contained material initially deposited in the accumulation zone was dated and revealed Late Holocene ages, coinciding with a period of enhanced eolian activity in the nearby tundra. Therefore, variable eolian activity during the Holocene effected dust fluxes towards the ice and hence leads to albedo variations in the present ablation zone of the ice sheet.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: August 1, 2012

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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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