20 Feb 2024
 | 20 Feb 2024
Status: this preprint is open for discussion and under review for Climate of the Past (CP).

New estimates of sulfate diffusion rates in the EPICA Dome C ice core

Rachael H. Rhodes, Yvan Bollet-Quivogne, Piers R. F. Barnes, Mirko Severi, and Eric W. Wolff

Abstract. To extract climatically relevant chemical signals from the deepest, oldest Antarctic ice, we must first understand the degree to which chemical ions diffuse within solid ice. Volcanic sulfate peaks are the ideal target for such an investigation because they are high amplitude, short duration (~3 years) events with a quasi-uniform structure. Here we present analysis of the EPICA Dome C sulfate record over the last 450 kyr. We identify volcanic peaks and isolate them from the non-sea salt sulfate background to reveal the effects of diffusion: amplitude damping and broadening of peaks in the time domain with increasing depth/age. Sulfate peak shape is also altered by the thinning of ice layers with depth that results from ice flow. Both processes must be simulated to derive effective diffusion rates. This is achieved by running a forward model to diffuse idealised sulfate peaks at different rates while also accounting for ice thinning. Our simulations suggest a median effective diffusion rate of sulfate ions of 2.4 ± 1.7 x 10-7 m2 yr-1 in the Holocene ice, slightly faster than suggested by previous work. The effective diffusion rate observed in deeper ice is significantly lower, and the Holocene ice shows the highest rate of the last 450 kyr. Beyond the Holocene, there is no systematic difference between the effective diffusion rates of glacial and interglacial periods despite variations in soluble ions concentrations, dust loading and ice grain radii. Effective diffusion rates for 40 to 200 ka are relatively constant, on the order of 1 x 10-8 m2 yr-1. Our results suggests that the diffusion of sulfate ions within volcanic peaks is relatively fast initially, perhaps through the inter-connected vein network, but slows significantly after 40 kyr. In the absence of clear evidence for a controlling environmental factor on sulfate diffusivity with depth/age, we hypothesize that the rapid decrease in diffusion rate from the time of deposition to ice of 50 ka age may be due to a switch in the mechanism of diffusion resulting from the changing location of sulfate ions within the ice microstructure.

Rachael H. Rhodes, Yvan Bollet-Quivogne, Piers R. F. Barnes, Mirko Severi, and Eric W. Wolff

Status: open (until 18 Apr 2024)

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  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2024-19', Alan Rempel, 28 Mar 2024 reply
Rachael H. Rhodes, Yvan Bollet-Quivogne, Piers R. F. Barnes, Mirko Severi, and Eric W. Wolff
Rachael H. Rhodes, Yvan Bollet-Quivogne, Piers R. F. Barnes, Mirko Severi, and Eric W. Wolff


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Short summary
Some ionic components slowly move through the ice by diffusion but the rate of this diffusion, its exact mechanism(s), and the factors that might influence it, are poorly understood. In this study, we model how peaks in sulfate, deposited at Dome C on the Antarctic ice sheet after volcanic eruptions, change with depth and time. We find that the sulfate diffusion rate in ice is relatively fast in young ice near the surface, but the rate reduces markedly over time.