Impacts of the photo-driven post-depositional processing on snow nitrate and its isotopes at Summit, Greenland: a model-based study

Jiang, Zhuang; Alexander, Becky; Savarino, Joel; Erbland, Joseph; Geng, Lei

Atmospheric information embedded in ice-core nitrate is disturbed by post-depositional processing. Here we used a layered snow photochemical column model to explicitly investigate the effects of post-depositional processing on snow nitrate and its isotopes (inline-formulaδ15N and inline-formulaΔ17O) at Summit, Greenland, where post-depositional processing was thought to be minimal due to the high snow accumulation rate. We found significant redistribution of nitrate in the upper snowpack through photolysis, and up to 21 % of nitrate was lost and/or redistributed after deposition. The model indicates post-depositional processing can reproduce much of the observed inline-formulaδ15N seasonality, while seasonal variations in inline-formulaδ15N of primary nitrate are needed to reconcile the timing of the lowest seasonal inline-formulaδ15N. In contrast, post-depositional processing can only induce less than 2.1 inline-formula‰ seasonal inline-formulaΔ17O change, much smaller than the observation (9 inline-formula‰) that is ultimately determined by seasonal differences in nitrate formation pathway. Despite significant redistribution of snow nitrate in the photic zone and the associated effects on inline-formulaδ15N seasonality, the net annual effect of post-depositional processing is relatively small, suggesting preservation of atmospheric signals at the annual scale under the present Summit conditions. But at longer timescales when large changes in snow accumulation rate occur this post-depositional processing could become a major driver of the inline-formulaδ15N variability in ice-core nitrate.

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Jiang, Zhuang / Alexander, Becky / Savarino, Joel / et al: Impacts of the photo-driven post-depositional processing on snow nitrate and its isotopes at Summit, Greenland: a model-based study. 2021. Copernicus Publications.

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