The Elbrus (Caucasus, Russia) ice core record – Part 1: reconstruction of past anthropogenic sulfur emissions in south-eastern Europe

Preunkert, Susanne; Legrand, Michel; Kutuzov, Stanislav; Ginot, Patrick; Mikhalenko, Vladimir; Friedrich, Ronny

This study reports on the glaciochemistry of a deep ice core (182 m long) drilled in 2009 at Mount Elbrus in the Caucasus, Russia. Radiocarbon dating of the particulate organic carbon fraction in the ice suggests that the basal ice dates to 280±400 CE (Common Era). Based on chemical stratigraphy, the upper 168.6 m of the core was dated by counting annual layers. The seasonally resolved chemical records cover the years 1774–2009 CE, thus being useful to reconstruct many aspects of atmospheric pollution in south-eastern Europe from pre-industrial times to the present day. After having examined the extent to which the arrival of large dust plumes originating from the Sahara and Middle East modifies the chemical composition of the Elbrus (ELB) snow and ice layers, we focus on the dust-free sulfur pollution. The ELB dust-free sulfate levels indicate a 6- and 7-fold increase from 1774–1900 to 1980–1995 in winter and summer, respectively. Remaining close to 55±10 ppb during the 19th century, the annual dust-free sulfate levels started to rise at a mean rate of ∼3 ppb per year from 1920 to 1950. The annual increase accelerated between 1950 and 1975 (8 ppb per year), with levels reaching a maximum between 1980 and 1990 (376±10 ppb) and subsequently decreasing to 270±18 ppb at the beginning of the 21st century. Long-term dust-free sulfate trends observed in the ELB ice cores are compared with those previously obtained in Alpine and Altai (Siberia) ice, with the most important differences consisting in a much earlier onset and a more pronounced decrease in the sulfur pollution over the last 3 decades in western Europe than south-eastern Europe and Siberia.

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Preunkert, Susanne / Legrand, Michel / Kutuzov, Stanislav / et al: The Elbrus (Caucasus, Russia) ice core record – Part 1: reconstruction of past anthropogenic sulfur emissions in south-eastern Europe. 2019. Copernicus Publications.

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Rechteinhaber: Susanne Preunkert et al.

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