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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2020-234
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2020-234
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  02 Sep 2020

02 Sep 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

Radiocarbon dating of alpine ice cores with the dissolved organic carbon (DOC) fraction

Ling Fang1,2,3, Theo Jenk1,3, Thomas Singer1,2,3, Shugui Hou4,5, and Margit Schwikowski1,2,3 Ling Fang et al.
  • 1Laboratory for Environmental Chemistry, Paul Scherrer Institute, 5232 Villigen PSI, Switzerland
  • 2Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Bern, 3012 Bern, Switzerland
  • 3Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Bern, 3012 Bern, Switzerland
  • 4School of Geographic and Oceanographic Sciences, Nanjing University, Nanjing, 210023, China
  • 5School of Oceanography, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai 200240, China

Abstract. High-alpine glaciers are valuable archives of past climatic and environmental conditions. The interpretation of the preserved signal requires a precise chronology. Radiocarbon (14C) dating of the water-insoluble organic carbon (WIOC) fraction has become an important dating tool to constrain the age of ice cores from mid-latitude and low-latitude glaciers. However, in some cases this method is restricted by the low WIOC concentration in the ice. In this work, we report first 14C dating results using the dissolved organic carbon (DOC) fraction, which is present at concentrations of at least a factor of two higher than the WIOC fraction. We evaluated this new approach by comparison to the established WIO14C dating based on parallel ice core sample sections from four different Eurasian glaciers covering an age range of several hundred to around 20’000 years. 14C dating of the two fractions yielded comparable ages with WIO14C revealing a slight, barely significant, systematic offset towards older ages. Our data suggests this to be caused by incompletely removed carbonate from mineral dust (14C depleted) contributing to the WIOC fraction. While in the DOC extraction procedure inorganic carbon is monitored to ensure complete removal, the average removal efficiency for WIOC samples was here estimated to be ~96%. We did not find any indication of in-situ production systematically contributing to DO14C as suggested in a previous study. By using the DOC instead of the WIOC fraction for 14C dating, the required ice mass can be reduced to typically ~250 g, yielding a precision of ±200 years or even better if sample sizes typically required for WIO14C dating are used. This study shows the potential of pushing radiocarbon dating of ice forward even to remote and Polar Regions, where the carbon content in the ice is particularly low, when applying the DOC fraction for 14C dating.

Ling Fang et al.

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Short summary
The interpretation of the ice core preserved signal requires a precise chronology. Radiocarbon (14C) dating of the water-insoluble organic carbon (WIOC) fraction has become an important dating tool. However, this method is restricted by the low concentration in the ice. In this work, we report first 14C dating results using the dissolved organic carbon (DOC) fraction. The resulting ages are comparable in both fraction but using DOC fraction the required ice mass can be reduced.
The interpretation of the ice core preserved signal requires a precise chronology. Radiocarbon...
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