Antarctic black carbon tracks Southern Hemisphere climate throughout the Holocene

Tuesday, 15 December 2015: 09:30
3002 (Moscone West)
Monica M Arienzo and Joe McConnell, Desert Research Institute, Reno, NV, United States
Biomass-burning and fossil-fuel combustion emit black carbon (BC) aerosols which impact climate directly by changing Earth’s radiation budget and indirectly by changing cloud formation and reducing albedo when deposited on bright surfaces such as snow and ice. BC aerosols have been shown to be the second most important anthropogenic climate-forcing agent today, after carbon dioxide. However, on longer timescales, knowledge of natural variations in BC emissions and climate drivers of regional-scale biomass burning is limited.

Here we present the first high-resolution 14,000-year record of BC aerosol deposition in Antarctica. The two ice cores analyzed were the West Antarctic Ice Sheet Divide (WD) core from 14,000 years before 1950 (yr BP) to 2,475 yr BP and the East Antarctic B40 core from 2,485 yr BP to present. BC and a wide range of trace elements were analyzed via a continuous melter system allowing for sub-annual resolution in both cores. For BC concentration determinations, a Single Particle Soot Photometer (SP2; Droplet Measurement Technologies) was used.

BC fluxes in the WD and B40 Holocene composite more than doubled from <25 μg m-2 yr-1 at the end of the last glacial termination (14 kyr BP) to >50 μg m-2 yr-1 in the mid-Holocene (~7.5 kyr BP), and then declined to <20 μg m-2 yr-1 in the late Holocene, with lowest BC fluxes observed during the Little Ice Age. We compare Antarctic BC fluxes to low-latitude paleoclimate proxies to investigate a potential link between low latitude climate, biomass burning and BC emissions.