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Post-coring entrapment of modern air in polar ice: Evidence from CFC-12 measurements in Antarctic firn air and shallow ice cores

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This study is a comparison of CFC-12 (CCl2F2) measurements in firn air and ice core samples from three Antarctic sites: South Pole, West Antarctic Ice Sheet Divide (79.46°S, 112.13°W), and Siple Dome (81.65°S, 148.81°W). CFC-12 is a synthetic chlorofluorocarbon manufactured during the mid-late 20th century for use as a refrigerant and an aerosol spray propellant. Its atmospheric history is well established with agreement among instrumental time series measurements and industry-reported production data [Walker et al., 2000], the distribution of dissolved CFC-12 in the oceans [e.g. Weiss et al., 1985], and firn air measurements [Butler et al., 1999]. The atmospheric history indicates that there was no measureable CFC-12 in the atmosphere prior to the 1940’s. The firn air CFC-12 profiles are consistent with the known atmospheric history of this gas. In contrast, the air in ice core samples collected near the close-off depth exhibit anomalously high CFC-12 levels. We propose that this is due to entrapment of modern air in open pores that close after drilling, resulting in elevated CFC-12 mixing ratios. These results demonstrate how the composition of air trapped in shallow ice cores can be altered during the post-drilling period through purely physical processes. Comparison of firn air and ice core bubble composition is one of the commonly used tools for studying the bubble close-off process. The post-drilling entrapment process detected in this study represents a potential complication for such investigations.

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