Variations in snow and firn chemistry along US ITASE traverses and the effect of surface glazing
This study provides a baseline from which changes in the chemistry of the atmosphere over Antarctica can be monitored under expected warming scenarios and continued intensification of industrial activities in the Southern Hemisphere. It is the first study to measure more than 25 chemical constituents in the surface snow and firn across extensive regions of Antarctica. We present major ion, trace element, heavy metal, rare earth element and oxygen isotope data from a series of surface snow samples and shallow firn sections collected along four US ITASE traverses across East and West Antarctica. In each sample we measure dissolved concentrations of Na
42−, and MS
− using ion chromatography and total concentrations of Sr, Cd, Cs, Ba, La, Ce, Pr, Pb, Bi, U, As, Al, S, Ca, Ti, V, Cr, Mn, Fe, Co, Na, Mg, Li, and K using inductively coupled plasma sector field mass spectrometry (ICP-SFMS). We also measure δ
18O by isotope ratio mass spectrometry.
Satellite remote sensing measurements of microwave backscatter and grain size are used to assist in the identification of glaze/dune areas across Antarctica and determine if these areas can possibly contain useful chemical climate records. The majority of the non-glaze/dune samples in this study exhibit similar, or lower, concentrations to those from previous studies. Consequently, the results presented here comprise a conservative baseline for Antarctic surface snow chemical concentrations.
The elements Cd, Pb, As and Bi are enriched across Antarctica relative to both ocean and upper crust elemental ratios. Local and global volcanic outgassing may account for the majority of the Bi measured in East and West Antarctica and for a significant fraction of the Cd and As. However, significant concentrations of Cd, Pb, and As remain across much of Antarctica.