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A technique for continuous detection of drill liquid in ice cores

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When drilling ice cores deeper than ∼100 m, drill liquid is required to maintain ice-core quality and to limit borehole closure. Due to high-pressure air bubbles in the ice, the ice core can crack during drilling and core retrieval, typically at 600–1200 m depth in Greenland. Ice from this 'brittle zone' can be contaminated by drill liquid as it seeps through cracks into the core. Continuous flow analysis (CFA) systems are routinely used to analyse ice for chemical impurities, so the detection of drill liquid is important for validating accurate measurements and avoiding potential instrument damage. An optical detector was constructed to identify drill liquid in CFA tubing by ultraviolet absorption spectroscopy at a wavelength of 290 nm. The set-up was successfully field-tested in the frame of the NEEM ice-core drilling project in Greenland. A total of 27 cases of drill liquid contamination were identified during the analysis of 175 m of brittle zone ice. The analyses most strongly affected by drill liquid contamination include insoluble dust particles, electrolytic conductivity, ammonium, hydrogen peroxide and sulphate. This method may also be applied to other types of drill liquid used at other drill sites.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2013-08-01

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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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