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Collaborative Research: South Pole Ice Core Chronology and Climate Records using Chemical and Microparticle Measurements

This collaborative project explores the signatures and causes of natural climate change in the region surrounding Antarctica over the last 40,000 years as the Earth transitioned from an ice age into the modern warm period. The researchers will investigate how the wind belts that surround Antarctica changed in their strength and position through time, and document explosive volcanic eruptions and CO2 cycling in the Southern Ocean as potential climate forcing mechanisms over this interval. Understanding how and why the climate varied naturally in the past is critical for improving understanding of modern climate change and projections of future climate under higher levels of atmospheric CO2. The investigators plan to conduct a suite of chemical measurements along the 1500m length of the South Pole Ice Core, including major ion and trace element concentrations, and microparticle (dust) concentrations and size distributions. These measurements will (1) extend the South Pole record of explosive volcanic eruptions to 40,000 years using sulfate and particle data; (2) establish the relative timing of climate changes in dust source regions of Patagonia, New Zealand, and Australia using dust flux data; (3) investigate changes in the strength and position of the westerly wind belt using dust size distribution data; and (4) quantify the flux of bioavailable trace metals deposited as dust to the Southern Ocean over time. These chemistry records will also be critical for creating the timescale that will be used by all researchers studying records from the South Pole core. The project will support four graduate students and several undergraduate students across three different institutions, and become a focus of the investigators' efforts to disseminate outcomes of climate change science to the broader community.

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