Post-depositional modification on seasonal-to-interannual timescales alters the deuterium excess signals in summer snow layers in Greenland
Abstract. We document the isotopic evolution of near-surface snow at the EastGRIP ice core site in the Northeast Greenland National Park using a time-resolved array of 1-m deep isotope (δ18O, δD) profiles. The snow profiles were taken from May–August during the 2017–2019 summer seasons. An age-depth model was developed and applied to each profile mitigating the impacts of stratigraphic noise on isotope signals. Significant changes in deuterium excess (d) are observed in surface snow and near-surface snow as the snow ages. Decreases in d of up to 5 ‰ occurs during summer seasons after deposition during two of the three summer seasons observed. The d always experiences a 3–5 ‰ increase in d after aging one year in the snow due to a broadening of the autumn d maximum. Models of idealized scenarios coupled with prior work (Wahl et al., 2022) indicate that the summertime post-depostional changes in d (Δd) can be explained with surface sublimation, forced ventilation of the near-surface snow down to 20–30 cm, and isotope-gradient-driven (IGD) diffusion throughout the column. The interannual Δd is also partly explained with IGD diffusion, but other mechanisms are at work that leave a bias in the d record. Thus, d does not just carry information about source region conditions and transport history as is commonly assumed, but also integrates local conditions into summer snow layers as the snow ages. Finally, we observe a dramatic increase in the seasonal isotope-to-temperature sensitivity occurs, which can be explained solely by IGD diffusion. Our results are dependent on the site characteristics (e.g. wind, temperature, accumulation rate), but indicate that more process-based research is necessary to understand water isotopes as climate proxies. Recommendations for monitoring and physical modeling are given, with special attention to the d parameter.
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