Articles | Volume 14, issue 20
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 14, 11447–11460, 2014

Special issue: Interactions between climate change and the Cryosphere: SVALI,...

Atmos. Chem. Phys., 14, 11447–11460, 2014

Research article 30 Oct 2014

Research article | 30 Oct 2014

Increase in elemental carbon values between 1970 and 2004 observed in a 300-year ice core from Holtedahlfonna (Svalbard)

M. M. Ruppel1, E. Isaksson2, J. Ström3, E. Beaudon4, J. Svensson1,5, C. A. Pedersen2, and A. Korhola1 M. M. Ruppel et al.
  • 1Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
  • 2Norwegian Polar Institute, Tromsø, Norway
  • 3Department of Applied Environmental Science ITM (Atmospheric Science Unit), Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
  • 4Byrd Polar Research Center, Ohio State University, Columbus, USA
  • 5Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI), Helsinki, Finland

Abstract. Black carbon (BC) is a light-absorbing particle that warms the atmosphere–Earth system. The climate effects of BC are amplified in the Arctic, where its deposition on light surfaces decreases the albedo and causes earlier melt of snow and ice. Despite its suggested significant role in Arctic climate warming, there is little information on BC concentrations and deposition in the past. Here we present results on BC (here operationally defined as elemental carbon (EC)) concentrations and deposition on a Svalbard glacier between 1700 and 2004. The inner part of a 125 m deep ice core from Holtedahlfonna glacier (79°8' N, 13°16' E, 1150 m a.s.l.) was melted, filtered through a quartz fibre filter and analysed for EC using a thermal–optical method. The EC values started to increase after 1850 and peaked around 1910, similar to ice core records from Greenland. Strikingly, the EC values again increase rapidly between 1970 and 2004 after a temporary low point around 1970, reaching unprecedented values in the 1990s. This rise is not seen in Greenland ice cores, and it seems to contradict atmospheric BC measurements indicating generally decreasing atmospheric BC concentrations since 1989 in the Arctic. For example, changes in scavenging efficiencies, post-depositional processes and differences in the vertical distribution of BC in the atmosphere are discussed for the differences between the Svalbard and Greenland ice core records, as well as the ice core and atmospheric measurements in Svalbard. In addition, the divergent BC trends between Greenland and Svalbard ice cores may be caused by differences in the analytical methods used, including the operational definitions of quantified particles, and detection efficiencies of different-sized BC particles. Regardless of the cause of the increasing EC values between 1970 and 2004, the results have significant implications for the past radiative energy balance at the coring site.

Final-revised paper