Articles | Volume 13, issue 7
Research article
20 Jul 2017
Research article |  | 20 Jul 2017

Atmospheric gas records from Taylor Glacier, Antarctica, reveal ancient ice with ages spanning the entire last glacial cycle

Daniel Baggenstos, Thomas K. Bauska, Jeffrey P. Severinghaus, James E. Lee, Hinrich Schaefer, Christo Buizert, Edward J. Brook, Sarah Shackleton, and Vasilii V. Petrenko

Abstract. Old ice for paleo-environmental studies, traditionally accessed through deep core drilling on domes and ridges on the large ice sheets, can also be retrieved at the surface from ice sheet margins and blue ice areas. The practically unlimited amount of ice available at these sites satisfies a need in the community for studies of trace components requiring large sample volumes. For margin sites to be useful as ancient ice archives, the ice stratigraphy needs to be understood and age models need to be established. We present measurements of trapped gases in ice from Taylor Glacier, Antarctica, to date the ice and assess the completeness of the stratigraphic section. Using δ18O of O2 and methane concentrations, we unambiguously identify ice from the last glacial cycle, covering every climate interval from the early Holocene to the penultimate interglacial. A high-resolution transect reveals the last deglaciation and the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) in detail. We observe large-scale deformation in the form of folding, but individual stratigraphic layers do not appear to have undergone irregular thinning. Rather, it appears that the entire LGM–deglaciation sequence has been transported from the interior of the ice sheet to the surface of Taylor Glacier relatively undisturbed. We present an age model that builds the foundation for gas studies on Taylor Glacier. A comparison with the Taylor Dome ice core confirms that the section we studied on Taylor Glacier is better suited for paleo-climate reconstructions of the LGM due to higher accumulation rates.

Short summary
We present measurements of the gas composition in trapped air bubbles in ice samples taken from Taylor Glacier, Antarctica. We can show that ice from the entire last glacial cycle (125 000 years ago to the present) is exposed at the surface of this glacier and that the atmospheric record contained in the air bubbles is well preserved. Taylor Glacier therefore provides an easily accessible archive of ancient ice that allows for studies of trace components that require large ice volumes.