From atmospheric water isotopes measurement to firn core interpretation in Adélie Land: a case study for isotope-enabled atmospheric models in Antarctica

martin.werner [ at ]


In a context of global warming and sea level rise acceleration, it is key to estimate the evolution of the atmo- spheric hydrological cycle and temperature in polar regions, which directly influence the surface mass balance of the Arc- tic and Antarctic ice sheets. Direct observations are available from satellite data for the last 40 years and a few weather data since the 1950s in Antarctica. One of the best ways to access longer records is to use climate proxies in firn or ice cores. The water isotopic composition in these cores is widely used to reconstruct past temperature variations. We need to progress in our understanding of the influence of the atmospheric hydrological cycle on the water isotopic composition of ice cores. First, we present a 2-year-long time series of vapor and precipitation isotopic composition mea- surement at Dumont d’Urville Station, in Adélie Land. We characterize diurnal variations of meteorological parameters (temperature, atmospheric water mixing ratio (hereafter hu- midity) and δ18O) for the different seasons and determine the evolution of key relationships (δ18O versus temperature or humidity) throughout the year: we find that the temper- ature vs. δ18O relationship is dependent on synoptic events dynamics in winter contrary to summer. Then, this data set is used to evaluate the atmospheric general circulation model ECHAM6-wiso (model version with embedded water stable isotopes) in a coastal region of Adélie Land where local con- ditions are controlled by strong katabatic winds which directly impact the isotopic signal. We show that a combina- tion of continental (79 %) and oceanic (21 %) grid cells leads model outputs (temperature, humidity and δ18O) to nicely fit the observations, at different timescales (i.e., seasonal to syn- optic). Therefore we demonstrate the added value of long- term water vapor isotopic composition records for model evaluation. Then, as a clear link is found between the isotopic compo- sition of water vapor and precipitation, we assess how iso- topic models can help interpret short firn cores. In fact, a virtual firn core built from ECHAM-wiso outputs explains much more of the variability observed in S1C1 isotopic record than a virtual firn core built from temperature only. Yet, deposition and post-deposition effects strongly affect the firn isotopic signal and probably account for most of the re- maining misfits between archived firn signal and virtual firn core based on atmospheric modeling.

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DOI 10.5194/tc-17-5241-2023

Cite as
Santos, C. L. D. , Fourré, E. , Agosta, C. , Casado, M. , Cauquoin, A. , Werner, M. , Minster, B. , Prié, F. , Jossoud, O. , Petit, L. and Landais, A. (2023): From atmospheric water isotopes measurement to firn core interpretation in Adélie Land: a case study for isotope-enabled atmospheric models in Antarctica , The Cryosphere, 17 (12), pp. 5241-5254 . doi: 10.5194/tc-17-5241-2023

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