Ice core data record significant and abrupt past climate changes that are associated with large and rapid changes in atmospheric greenhouse gases, such as methane. Due to the gradual close-off of gas bubbles and the relatively fast diffusion of gases within the firn column, even a discrete or quick step increase in air composition may be smoothed or integrated in the data; current laboratory analyses of gases consider the mean gas content value across all bubbles in a sample, rather than the content of individual bubbles. The convolution of the distribution of trapping ages with the history of atmospheric composition thus smears the measured gas record in each sample. We developed a nondestructive method to determine pressure distribution in all bubbles in a sample and estimate the shape of the trapping function derived from that bubble pressure distribution and site characteristics. Our method works not only for present conditions but also through varying paleo-atmospheric conditions, while providing accurate measurements of morphological bubble properties. The method is based on using temperature-driven air bubble migration as a proxy for the pressure of individual bubbles, which we combine with a model for bubbly ice densification to obtain the gas trapping functions and constrain the age distribution of air bubbles for past conditions, which are preserved at different depths. The trapping functions will help us to obtain a more accurate gas signal in the future that is less attenuated through the age distribution of the gas during the close-off process.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Atmospheric Science
- Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
- Space and Planetary Science