09 Aug 2023
 | 09 Aug 2023
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

Evidence of radionuclide fractionation due to meltwater percolation in a temperate glacier

Elena Di Stefano, Giovanni Baccolo, Massimiliano Clemenza, Barbara Delmonte, Deborah Fiorini, Roberto Garzonio, Margit Schwikowski, and Valter Maggi

Abstract. The article discusses the use of 3H and 137Cs as temporal markers in ice cores extracted from temperate glaciers. We present a complete tritium (3H) profile for a 46 m ice core drilled from Adamello glacier, a temperate glacier in the Italian Alps, and compare it to 137Cs profile from the same ice core. Our analysis reveals contamination of tritium between 19 and 32 m of depth, which can be attributed to the worldwide radioactive contamination caused by atmospheric nuclear bomb testing in the 1950s and 1960s. Results show that the radioactive peak associated with 1963 is not coincident for 3H and 137Cs, but the 3H peak occurs 1.5 m above the 137Cs one. This misalignment is caused by meltwater-induced postdepositional processes that affect 137Cs, which is more sensitive to percolation than 3H. The total inventory of 137Cs in this ice core is also among the lowest ever reported, providing additional evidence that meltwater disturbed its distribution into the ice. On the contrary, the total tritium inventory is comparable to what is reported in literature, making it a more reliable temporal marker for temperate glaciers.

Elena Di Stefano et al.

Status: open (until 12 Oct 2023)

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  • RC1: 'Comment on tc-2023-108', Anonymous Referee #1, 05 Sep 2023 reply

Elena Di Stefano et al.

Elena Di Stefano et al.


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Short summary
Rising temperatures are impacting the reliability of glaciers as environmental archives. This study reports how meltwater percolation affects the distribution of tritium and cesium, commonly used as temporal markers in dating ice cores, in a temperate glacier. Our findings challenge the established application of radionuclides for dating mountain ice cores and indicate tritium as the best choice.