Measurements of Isotopic Composition of Vapour on the Antarctic Plateau
Abstract:The oldest ice core records are obtained on the East Antarctic plateau. The composition in stable isotopes of water (δ18O, δD, δ17O) permits to reconstruct the past climatic conditions over the ice sheet and also at the evaporation source. Paleothermometer accuracy relies on good knowledge of processes affecting the isotopic composition of surface snow in Polar Regions. Both simple models such as Rayleigh distillation and global atmospheric models with isotopes provide good prediction of precipitation isotopic composition in East Antarctica but post deposition processes can alter isotopic composition on site, in particular exchanges with local vapour. To quantitatively interpret the isotopic composition of water archived in ice cores, it is thus essential to study the continuum water vapour – precipitation – surface snow – buried snow.
While precipitation and snow sampling are routinely performed in Antarctica, climatic conditions in Concordia, very cold (-55°C in average) and very dry (less than 1000ppmv), impose difficult conditions to measure the water vapour isotopic composition. New developments in infrared spectroscopy enable now the measurement of isotopic composition in water vapour traces (down to 20ppmv). Here we present the results of a campaign of measurement of isotopic composition in Concordia in 2014/2015. Two infrared spectrometers have been deployed or the first time on top of the East Antarctic Plateau allowing a continuous vapour measurement for a month. Comparison of the results from infrared spectroscopy with cryogenic trapping validates the relevance of the method to measure isotopic composition in dry conditions. Identification of different behaviour of isotopic composition in the water vapour associated to turbulent or stratified regime indicates a strong impact of meteorological processes in local vapour/snow interaction.